From the time the Dallas Cowboys took a 21-10 lead with 1:19 left in the second quarter, thanks to Sean Lee’s 52-yard interception return for a touchdown, to the time the San Diego Chargers took a 23-21 lead with 14:50 left in the fourth quarter, Romo and the offense ran seven plays.
Seven. That’s it. For the entire third quarter.
By the time the Cowboys ran their 15th play of the second half, the Chargers upped their lead to what turned out to be the final score, 30-21.
During that time span, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers managed 37 plays for 310 yards on four drives that led to 20 points.
For those who will criticize the Cowboys' lack of a running game, they were never in a position to really run the ball because they did not have the ball much.
The Cowboys had 10 possessions and ran a season-low 56 plays. Last week against the St. Louis Rams they 10 possessions but their 59 plays ate up 33 minutes, 28 seconds.
They had the ball for only 25:57 against the Chargers, marking the first time they did not hold possession for at least half of the game this season.
“It’s one of those games that come down to a couple of plays,” said Romo, who completed 27 of 37 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns. “Without as many possessions as you’d normally get in the football game you have to make them all count.”
The Cowboys had to be perfect on offense to match Rivers (35 of 42, 401 yards, three touchdowns) and they were not even close.
On the Cowboys’ first drive of the second half after a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive by San Diego, Dez Bryant was unable to hold on to a sideline throw from Romo on third down, worrying about tapping his feet inbounds. On their second drive of the second half after a 13-play, 84-yard drive by the Chargers, a Ronald Leary holding penalty wiped out a first-down pass to Cole Beasley at the San Diego 32. Two plays later Jason Witten was unable to come up with a Romo throw down the seam on third down.
“You’ve got to make those plays,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Those aren’t easy plays. Those aren’t easy throws and easy catches, but those guys are capable of making them. Again, I keep saying this, but in a game like this, it comes back down to those kind of plays when we’re not slowing them down and we have to match them and every one of those allows you to maintain a possession by converting a third down or putting you in a more favorable third down type situation.”
The Cowboys’ fourth drive of the second half ended at the Chargers 1 when rookie wide receiver Terrance Williams fumbled attempting to reach for the goal line with the Chargers leading by 9.
“At that point it’s a two-score game,” Garrett said. “We knock it in there we give ourselves a chance coming back.”
But they didn’t and there was no chance of a comeback.
“With minimal possessions it’s going to come down to a few things that you do right or wrong,” Romo said. “Offensively we needed to do a few more right.”