IRVING, Texas -- In the first four weeks of the season, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has thrown just nine passes of 20 or more yards and fewer than 10 passes with 21 or more air yards.
To say the Cowboys don't take enough shots down the field would be fair. In Sunday's loss to the San Diego Chargers, 19 of Romo's 27 completions went for fewer than 10 yards.
Defensive coverage, time in the pocket and play call affect whether or not Romo throws passes down the field. It would seem Romo has the weapons necessary to take shots down field in wide receiver Dez Bryant and at times rookie wideout Terrance Williams. When healthy, Miles Austin is a deep threat, but his ability to beat defenses on slants is something the Cowboys like to take advantage of.
The Cowboys struggled on third down, going 3-of-9 and had four drops in the passing game, three coming on third-down plays. The Cowboys ran the ball well, averaging 5.8 yards per carry, but still didn't challenge one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL with deep throws.
"That’s certainly something you want to do," coach Jason Garrett said of deep throws. "You want to be able to make some chunk plays in the passing game. The touchdown that Dez had, the 34-yarder, was one of those kinds of plays. A ball doesn’t always have to travel that far in the air but you want to be able to make those plays, complete the ball in the intermediate range where you give your receiver a chance to break a tackle and go score. We didn’t do that on a consistent enough basis throughout the ballgame."
The touchdown Garrett is speaking of is the throw Romo made to Bryant in tight one-on-one coverage against the Chargers on a throw to the end zone.
"He can make that catch with two people on him," Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said Tuesday on KRLD-FM.
Jones said he doesn't feel the need to challenge defenses deep all the time. In the Chargers game, Jones felt Romo had time to complete all sorts of throws because the offensive line played well.
It's just interesting that Peyton Manning (17), Geno Smith (17), Philip Rivers (15) and Alex Smith (14) just to name a few have more 20-yard throws than Romo. Michael Vick leads the NFL with 23 passes of 20 or more yards.
"I think if we would have done a better job on third downs, you get a few more of those opportunities and we wanted to be balanced and consistently try to run the ball throughout," Garrett said. "We were able to do that, and hopefully you mix in a high-percentage game with a chunk, big-play passing game and that’s the way you want to play offensive football."