Red Zone Turnover, Third Downs Highlight Struggles For Cassel, Offense

GREEN BAY, Wisc. – Dez Bryant got a hand on it, but the ball bounced into the arms of Packers cornerback Sam Shields for an interception.

It was that kind of start, and ultimately, that kind of day again for Matt Cassel and the Cowboys' passing game against the Packers.

Six days after his first win as Tony Romo's injury replacement, Cassel never seemed to find a rhythm in the rain at Lambeau Field. Making his sixth start of 2015, Cassel completed 13 of 29 passes for 114 yards with a season-low 41.5 quarterback rating in the Cowboys' 28-7 loss.

His interception occurred on the offense's opening drive, facing 3rd-and-goal from the 3-yard line after Darren McFadden ran 50 yards deep into Green Bay territory. It marked the Cowboys' fourth red zone trip without a touchdown dating back to last Monday night's win over the Redskins.

Worse, the turnover wiped out a chance for any points, as well as early momentum against the NFC North-leading Packers.

The Cowboys' lone touchdown of the game was a four-play, 80-yard drive in the third quarter led entirely by McFadden and backup running back Robert Turbin, who scored from seven yards out.

"We weren't consistent enough in the passing game," head coach Jason Garrett said. "We weren't able to stay on the field enough to get into any rhythm, and Matt's a part of that. I thought he made some good throws in the game, but overall we didn't throw the ball effectively enough, and he's certainly a part of that.

"Matt battles, he competes, the guys respect him. Unfortunately we didn't do enough offensively to win this ballgame."

Tight end Jason Witten caught a team-high five passes for 40 yards in Sunday's loss. Cassel and Dez Bry­ant connected only once out of six tries for a 9-yard gain.

The stat most indicative of the Cowboys' offensive woes: they converted only 1 of 11 on third down, while Aaron Rodgers and the Packers were 7 of 14.

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"It was a frustrating night for us offensively, obviously," Cassel said. "We didn't convert on third downs, and we've got to give credit where credit is due. They came out and played a lot of man coverage and we weren't able to convert. When we did complete those balls, we weren't able to get those first downs to keep our defense off the field."

The Cowboys' defense hung tough yet again, limiting Green Bay to 14 points until the final five minutes. But the Packers finally put the game away with back-to-back rushing touchdowns, and the Cowboys' offense went scoreless in its final five drives after Turbin's touchdown, picking up only three first downs.

To have a chance at catching the NFC East-leading Redskins and Eagles (6-7) with three games remaining, the Cowboys simply need more points. In six of their last nine games, they have scored one touchdown or less.

"Obviously, third downs were not very good and they got us off the field too much," Garrett said. "I thought we had some opportunities just to throw and catch and we didn't convert to keep drives alive."

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