Cowboys defense shows hope, but offense shows nothing

ARLINGTON, Texas – New England Patriots Tom Brady left his first and likely only start at AT&T Stadium with a 30-6 win, but he had to work for it.

For a half, anyway.

The Dallas Cowboys sacked Brady five times in the first half, with Greg Hardy recording two sacks in his first game with the Cowboys, but Brady threw two touchdown passes and was not intercepted for the game. It’s hard to fault the defense, even if it allowed 30 points.

The offense simply could not come up with any answers to solve New England’s defense. It was the first time the Cowboys have not scored a touchdown since Week 3 of the 2011 season, but they won that game 18-16 on six Dan Bailey field goals against the Washington Redskins.

The Cowboys have lost three in a row without Tony Romo, and he won’t be back until Nov. 22 at the earliest.

The Cowboys have their first three-game losing streak since 2010, when they lost five in a row, and that led to Wade Phillips’ firing. Jason Garrett is in no such danger, but the Cowboys are in danger of seeing their season fade away before Romo returns.

The defense was able to show a pass rush it hadn’t shown much. They had three sacks in the first three games before putting up three against Drew Brees in last week’s loss to the New Orleans Saints.

Using mostly a three-man defensive line that had the Patriots off-balance in the first half, the Cowboys were able to get to Brady five times. It was the most Brady has been sacked in a half since 2001, his first year as a starter after taking over for an injured Drew Bledsoe.

In the second half, however, the Cowboys could not get to Brady. On his 59-yard pass to Julian Edelman, Brady took a shot to the back from Hardy, but it was after the ball was gone.

What were they thinking? With 1:12 left in the first half and having shown zero ability to move the ball, the Cowboys elected to pass on first down. Had Cole Beasley not dropped Brandon Weeden’s pass, they would have at least forced New England to call a timeout. On second down, Weeden was sacked by Jabaal Sheard, who overpowered Ronald Leary. The Patriots called timeout after the Cowboys’ next two plays and got the ball back with 53 seconds left to play. A 24-yard catch by Edelman set up a 57-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski with three seconds left in the half.

One reason to get excited: The next time the Cowboys play, there is a chance Dez Bryant will be available. The Cowboys are off next week and play the New York Giants on Oct. 25. Bryant would be six weeks off foot surgery, which was the top end of the team’s stated recovery time. He has been doing some light running lately but has not been running routes or testing the foot much.

One reason to panic: The Cowboys were able to pressure Brady, but they were unable to take the ball away from the Patriots. They have not had a takeaway since their Week 2 win against the Philadelphia Eagles, when J.J. Wilcox intercepted Sam Bradford with 4:29 left in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys have not forced a takeaway in 190 plays since. They had chances against the Patriots. Barry Church failed to scoop up a fumble after a Hardy sack. Corey White dropped a pick in the second half.

Time for a change? Weeden has lost 11 straight starts, dating back to 2012 with the Cleveland Browns. He is 0-4 with the Cowboys the past two seasons. Although all of the Cowboys’ faults on offense can’t be pinned on Weeden, does Garrett use the bye week to get Matt Cassel ready to start against the Giants? Considering the lack of a running game and the lack of downfield threats, it’s not a sure thing Cassel would fare much better.

Fantasy watch: For the second time in Weeden’s three starts, Terrance Williams was a non-factor. He did not have a catch until a 17-yarder in the fourth quarter. Against the Atlanta Falcons, Williams was targeted twice and did not have a catch. He had three catches for 49 yards against the New Orleans Saints. In man coverage, he does not create enough separation to make Weeden comfortable to throw it his way.

Good bye: When the schedule came out, the Cowboys weren’t pleased to have a bye week so early in the season. Given the injuries and the losing streak, it comes at a perfect time. It’s one fewer week they have to play without Bryant and Romo, and it gives them a chance to give Cassel practice time if they want to make a quarterback change.