IRVING, Texas – Constant fluctuation on the offensive line led to constant pressure Sunday on quarterback Tony Romo.
Romo was sacked seven times behind a makeshift offensive line, featuring three players in different positions from a week ago.
"I think our biggest issues were protecting the quarterback, with a number of sacks and negative plays in the passing game, and similarly we didn't run the ball as well as we would have liked to," said head coach Jason Garrett. "When those things aren't happening, you've just got to keep battling."
Injuries forced Mackenzy Bernadeau to switch from guard to center and backup Derrick Dockery to shift into Bernadeau's guard spot before the game. An ankle injury to left tackle Tyron Smith then brought Jermey Parnell into the action in the second quarter.
By the end of the day, Dockery, who hadn't started a game this season, was the only offensive lineman playing the same position he played the year prior. If Smith's injury turns out to be a high ankle sprain, Parnell may need to get used to that spot in future weeks.
"I'm hopeful that it's not severe," owner Jerry Jones said of Smith's injury. "He was trying to get back. As it could be, it's a high ankle [sprain]. I've got to quickly go off it, but we're positive about it. We've got to see tomorrow. I can't say enough about how Parnell came in. We knew that it was going to have to be an opportunity for him in these circumstances with the left tackle hurt. He came in and really played well."
Garrett said he gave Parnell a little more help with different formations, more help from tight ends and having his backs chip the defensive ends. He said one of the ways to help a tackle is by running the ball better, but the Cowboys running backs combined for only 63 yards.
The offense shifted more to the passing game, which worked well for Romo, who was to find Dez Bryant throughout the day. Romo said not much changed regarding play-calling with Bernadeau making his first career start at center, and he thought Bernadeau did well considering the lack of snaps he'd gotten from the lineman this year.
Bernadeau took center snaps while playing for the Panthers earlier in his career, but his primary position has always been guard.
"I think it went all right," Bernadeau said. "There were some good things and some things I need to improve on. Overall, for my first day, there were some things I could have done better – I should have done better. The communication between the offensive line and the quarterback went really well, but technique-wise, there are some things I need to work on. That'll come with practice."
If Ryan Cook (knee) or Phil Costa (ankle) can return from their respective injuries this week, Bernadeau will likely shift back to his normal role at guard. But, he did enjoy the change of the pace.
"I was very comfortable," Bernadeau said. "I was very excited about the opportunity to go out there and play center, try something different."