IRVING, Texas– One way or another, it seems rather clear that the Cowboys would prefer to get the ball down the field more this week against the Saints.
And by more, that would probably mean just one deep throw that counts on the stat sheet. Last week against the Falcons, Brandon Weeden's only down-field throw resulted in a defensive penalty, but didn't exactly count in the books.
Technically, the Cowboys haven't stretched the field to a wide receiver in any game this year.
Some of that can be attributed to the play-calls, or the quarterback himself. But even wide receiver Terrance Williams, the team's No. 1 target now with Dez Bryant out, put some of the blame on himself, especially with a couple of drops last week.
"Brandon did good. He didn't try to force the ball down the field," Williams said. "We have to keep working. There were some times (to get the ball outside), but it's my job to be ready, no matter if it's toward the end of the game or the first. There're no excuses for dropping passes. Whenever the times come, I have to catch it."
Williams was held without a catch, but said the receivers must step up to get open and provide Weeden with the same opportunities to succeed as the injured starter.
"I think he's a great quarterback," Williams said of Weeden. "It's our job as receivers to make it quarterback friendly like we do for Tony (Romo). I think this week, we're chiming in on it. We did a great job today of working on our hands. We have to play fast and not knock their hands off. If you're not ready, you're going to look bad. "
The Cowboys certainly won't give away the game plan for Sunday night's matchup in New Orleans, but according to Weeden, it's not about the Cowboys' offensive approach, but rather what the defense decides to give them.
That's what happened more often in last week's game with Atlanta as the Falcons pushed their corners back into coverage and exposed the middle of the field for the Cowboys to throw short. Weeden and even head coach Jason Garrett both admitted that there were some opportunities to get the ball deep and to the outside.
"We've got vertical plays called," Weeden said. "But if (the defenders) bail out, there's huge voids in the zone underneath. I felt like I was efficient as far as that goes. There're a couple of times I could've thrown a stop route or something outside, absolutely. But I'll take 25 (Lance Dunbar) on any linebacker in the league. If he misses that tackle, there's nobody left."
Weeden made it clear the check-down throws were a part of the game plan, something that Cowboys' vice president Stephen Jones echoed on Wednesday.
"He played a hell of a game the other day," Jones said of Weeden. "I think a little bit of it, too, is we had coached him to be very conservative, especially when we started off with a good first half. You didn't want to go out and make mistakes that would hand the game to them. A lot of that was a little bit of how we coached him all week, to protect the ball and be conservative, and it worked well in the first half. Anyway, we'll just have to adjust and go from there."
When it comes to confidence in his ability, Weeden shrugged off the notion that he only checked the ball down to underneath receivers because he was afraid to turn it loose.[embeddedad0]
"Throwing the ball on the boundary and throwing the comebacks, that's my strength," Weeden said. "I've played a lot of football games. I've never been criticized of checking the ball down. That's really not me. If you've watched me play in college or high school, I'm stretching it. That's not the way I'm usually throwing."
Again, Weeden knows it's not always about throwing the ball deep or to the outside.
"You have to be aggressive with a smart approach," Weeden said. "If it's not there, find the guys underneath or move on to the next play."
That's what the plan was last week, and for the most part, Weeden executed it to perfection, minus the one interception.
Don't expect major changes in the plan for the Saints. But finishing the game without a single vertical throw doesn't seem that likely either.