There has been much local water cooler discussion of late about the Cowboys' lack of an offensive identity.
At times this season, the offense has featured a mauling, smash-mouth running attack that would make Jim Brown quietly nod in approval. On other occasions, they've been able to air it out with the type of extreme explosiveness that gives cornerbacks nightmares.
Heading into their match up with Green Bay, although they hadn't been able to achieve complete style-point-savvy, high-fiving offensive balance through eight games, at least they were able to move the football one way or another. A lot has changed in two games. In the last eight quarters, 74 percent of the Cowboys' drives have ended once they've reached the rubber/road moment of third down. The reason? Tony Romo has been awful.
After converting only 3 of 12 on third down against the Packers, the Cowboys followed that with a disappointing 3 for 11 against the Redskins. Against Washington the Cowboys had 10 drives, if you count that last little run-the-clock out and punt situation. Including Romo's scramble on the final drive to pick up a third-and-3, the running game was 3 for 6 on third-down conversions. On third downs when Tony Romo attempted to move the chains with his arm, Dallas was 0 for 5 against Washington.
1st Drive -- third-and-5 -- Romo throws the ball way over Witten's head. Witten barely gets a few extended fingertips on the ball, which almost gift-wraps an INT for London Fletcher. Incomplete.
4th Drive -- third-and-6 -- Romo throws the ball high to Roy Williams... off of his out-stretched hands. Incomplete.
5th Drive -- third-and-8 -- Romo throws the ball high to Roy Williams... again off of his out-stretched hands. Incomplete. (LaRon Landry chuckles.)
7th Drive -- third-and-7 -- Romo throws the ball out of bounds, as nothing is open. Incomplete. (In fairness, had Williams not run such a half-hearted jog-route, there might have been something down field.)
0 for 5.
For good measure, let's go ahead and throw in the fourth-and-2 interception on the Cowboys' next to last drive -- where as my good buddy Skin says Romo "P-for-K'd" the ball in fourth-down desperation while getting pulled down to the turf. Had this been front-yard football with a Nerf, where we actually allowed pass-for-kick calls on fourth down, it might have been acceptable. In this case, not so much. Especially considering that a closer look reveals that a play was there to be made. Early in the play, Witten was wide open on the same pick play they successfully ran against Philly on the big third-down conversion that sealed that victory. But Romo didn't make the throw this time. Instead, he killed the drive.
None of the third-down distances against the Redskins were unmanageable. The running game was clicking and putting Dallas in a great position on third down, but Romo, continuing his inaccuracy trend, couldn't get the job done when the Cowboys relied on his arm to prolong a drive. That is, of course, until he broke out pinpoint accuracy on the game-winning touchdown drive.
And so we're all left scratching our heads once again. It seems as if the only consistent thing about Tony Romo's performance this season is that apparently, he will consistently lack consistency. Hard to be too upset with the guy who carried the team to victory when it mattered, but at the same time, if he hadn't been so awful on 3rd down, they wouldn't have needed 4th quarter heroics to beat Washington.
In terms of the Cowboys finding their offensive identity, it won't happen until they can get back to sustaining drives with third-down conversions. In terms of Tony Romo being considered one of the elite quarterbacks in the league, it won't happen until he can consistently move the chains week in and week out. Right now, although he's shown glimmers of brilliance at times, he's simply more erratic than dependable.