Cowboys offense has to pick up slack

IRVING, Texas -- Lost amid all of the love Jason Garrett showered on the Dallas Cowboys offense from Monday’s game against the Chicago Bears is the fact that they scored 14 points before their opponent decided to shut it down in the fourth quarter.

The Bears had a 42-14 lead just 36 seconds into the fourth quarter and it was simply time to not get hurt.

But, man, the Cowboys ran the ball oh-so-well, averaging 7.1 yards per carry. And Tony Romo had three touchdown passes. They scored on four of their eight possessions in the game excluding a first-half kneel down. It was all ice cream for the Cowboys offensively.

But it wasn’t good enough.

It wasn’t good enough because the defense did not force the Bears to punt in the game. And it wasn’t good enough because if the defense is going to be this bad, the offense has to be nearly perfect. And this offense has not been close to perfect. Well, once it was. They scored on eight of their 11 possessions against the Denver Broncos and lost 51-48. And the Broncos did not have to punt that day either.

The offense is not about to get into a finger-pointing session because of the defensive shortcomings.

“I think you have to be the best offense you can be,” tight end Jason Witten said. “I think when you start thinking that way and start pressing and saying those things, you're not running your system and you're not doing what you do as an offense. Obviously we need to be at our best and play our best football and we got to trust. This is what makes this game so special you trust the defense, you trust the special teams and they do the same thing to us. We're going to rely on that and trust that and we got a lot of good football players over there and stay together and that's what makes winning in this league so great.”

Some of the numbers look good for the Cowboys. They are third in points scored per game at 27.5, including six defensive touchdowns. They are strong in the red zone. The running game has been greatly improved over the last month and DeMarco Murray could have a 1,000-yard season.

But they are 22nd in yards per game (328.4). Romo had three games in which he did not reach 200 yards passing. Dez Bryant had five games in which he did not get 50 yards receiving. Miles Austin has disappeared. Gavin Escobar never really appeared.

“Every time we go on the field, we’re looking to score, so that doesn’t change the way we think, the way we approach each series,” offensive coordinator Bill Callahan said. “We just go about our own business. We don’t worry about things we can’t control. What we can control is getting better.”

They have three games to get better. The third-down offense has been junk all season. That would help the defense. The longer drives for the Cowboys, the less it is on the field. The deep passing game has been ineffective most of the year while facing some porous defenses. The Cowboys have 35 pass plays of 20 yards or more this year. Last year at this time they had 46.

Last year at this time Bryant was the most damaging receiver in the NFL not named Calvin Johnson. Last week he caught two passes for 12 yards.

“I think your job is to find a way to win the football game so invariably each team is made up a little differently,” Romo said. “We’ve had different times where the defense has helped us out this year and other games we’ve had to help out and that’s just why it’s a team game and each game is going to come up a little different.”

It has to change or the Cowboys will be home from the playoffs for the fourth straight season.