IRVING, Texas – The only thing consistent about the Cowboys' offense is the answer regarding its inconsistency.
The Cowboys have won three of their past four games, but the offense hasn't clicked recently the way it did against Denver in Week 5. Since that devastating late loss to the Broncos, the Cowboys have just nine offensive touchdowns in their last 20 quarters.
Quarterback Tony Romo offered a similar take Sunday to what most people have heard for a while from staff and personnel about why the offense isn't moving consistently.
"The execution of it is really what it comes down to," Romo said. "And I know that's a word that's not flattering to write about, but it really does come down to, 'Did the guy hold up against the 3-technique? Did the guy catch the ball? Did I put it out in front or behind him?' We're doing enough stuff offensively that are going to give teams trouble."
Last week against the Vikings, it was mostly drops and penalties holding the Cowboys back. Two monumental pass offensive pass interference calls and drops by four of Romo's favorite targets halted various drives.
The Cowboys have also ditched the run for the most part. They haven't had a 70-yard rusher since the Week 3 tilt against San Diego. [embedded_ad]
Still, head coach Jason Garrett and the offensive personnel preach that the main reason for the inconsistency is the same one it's always been when the offense hits a lull, and not any inherent problem in the calls that are made.
"There's a word that we use and our players understand is 'execution,'" Garrett said again. "We as coaches have to constantly give our players a chance to execute and put them in plays where they can be successful."
Both Garrett and Romo also referred to the protection breaking down as a reason for recent inconsistency.
"Early on in (Sunday's) ballgame, we didn't protect well enough," Garrett said. "They got to the quarterback. We couldn't get into some of the routes downfield that we would have liked to. There were some minus plays because of the sacks, there were some minus plays in the run game. So it's hard to get into rhythm, it's hard to call plays when you're in that kind of a situation. But again, I thought Bill (Callahan) did a fantastic job throughout this ballgame trying to find things."
Romo offered a specific example as to the routes downfield Garrett was referring to. The quarterback was able to hit Terrance Williams for 29 yards on a third-and-17 pass with 1:12 remaining in the first half against the Vikings, but that long route wasn't available often.
"When we look at the tape, that's what it comes down to inherently is just those little things," Romo said. "I threw a ball to Terrance today on third-and-whatever-it-was and he got the first down at the end of the half. It's a route that only works if you have enough time to wait on that route to get there. And it looks great. Why can't you do it other weeks? Well, you just didn't have time. That's literally as simple as it (gets).
"If the guys can give you that kind of time like they did on certain plays today, that makes it that much easier."
Garrett's said the Cowboys need to run it more and run it better since the beginning of the season, but it doesn't seem like much has changed in that regard throughout the year. The Cowboys ran just eight designed runs to 55 designed passes against the Vikings, despite never trailing by more than a touchdown.
Romo said the Cowboys had called more running plays. Some were switched based on what the Vikings were showing defensively.
"Their defense is predicated on that, showing you a safety down or a blitz look and then, boom, getting out," he said. "It makes it difficult if you have a couple of that stuff called. And the other part is Bill wanted to be aggressive this week, and I think he did a great job with that plan."
As well as he may have done, the Cowboys still totaled fewer yards of offense than the Vikings and have totaled fewer than 275 yards of offense in two of their past four games. When the defense is allowing 419 yards per game, then that can create a problem.
There are different reasons for the lack of yardage and offensive touchdown. Dwayne Harris' returning prowess against the Redskins played a large part in totaling just 213 yards of offense in that game. Other games have included drops or penalties, but the results have been similar in recent weeks.
Garrett admits the Cowboys need to find more consistency offensively. How they choose to go about that remains to be seen.
"We just haven't been as consistent as we want to be," Garrett said after the Vikings game. "At different times in the ballgame, whether it was short-yardage, third down or getting behind the chains a little bit with a penalty, we weren't in quite as good a rhythm as we want to be."