<
>

Clock ticking for Romo, Cowboys

It was Thanksgiving Day when Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo talked about fixing the little things with the offense.

Romo wouldn't get into specifics with what ails the Cowboys' offense, but it was clear he is distressed. The Cowboys have five games remaining in their season and if they're going to amount to anything, Romo has to help solve these problems.

He knows time is running out. He's 32. His contract expires after 2013. NFL teams are using younger products at his position.

He sees Robert Griffin III in Washington. He sees Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco.

The Cowboys are not an elite franchise. They're not even a good team. Romo talked about the little things that need fixing to become a good team:

"We just have to find a way to do some things better," he said. "I think some things are there that everyone can see that we need to do better. I think it's something we work on; a lot of things that our team has done throughout the year that we need to do a better job of. I don't know how to explain it other than we just need to play better."

The offensive line has to get better. It's on its third center, and right tackle Doug Free is playing like a man who could be shown the door after the season. Tyron Smith is hurt and Jermey Parnell played well in his place.

Bill Callahan, the offensive line coach hired after the retirement of Hudson Houck, can only do so much. Or can he?

The run game is a joke. Felix Jones shouldn't start in the NFL anymore. His health, with two bad knees, is killing him. Give Jones credit for playing, but the Cowboys need to start Lance Dunbar or Phillip Tanner. Starter DeMarco Murray's sprained foot isn't getting better or worse for that matter. So all Jason Garrett is doing is sticking with Jones.

The receivers are up and down. Kevin Ogletree is hurt. Miles Austin is hurt. Dez Bryant is a talented player who makes plays all over the field, but he can't do it alone. Garrett is finally using Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley now.

Is it too late?

Jason Witten is an elite tight end who doesn't get the touches necessary in the red zone. John Phillips has struggled to block. James Hanna has a future on this team.

But like any other position on the team, you need more production.

Injuries have bothered the practice time the Cowboys like to put in, and when that happens it hurts their quarterback.

"We need to do the little things better," he said. "I know we have a lot of new guys playing right now and a lot of guys banged up, but that's why we practice and do a lot of things so guys can step in and do a great job."

Romo's passing attempts are going up … and the losses are, too.

The quarterback is 2-6 when he throws 35 or more passes in a game. You can talk about him being forced to pass because of the run game's inconsistency and the fact the Cowboys are behind in a bulk of their games. It's still not a good formula to bring to the table each week.

"That's why we throw a lot of routes and do a lot of running with those guys," Romo said. "We're throwing for a lot of passes and yards this season, but you'd like to do less that way. You don't put that much pressure on the rest of the team. But saying that, it's also what we need to do right now to get back in the games. It's just harder for us to consistently get points and where we are starting good early in the game."

As the season gets close to crunch time, Romo's time is running out on him. He's been here so many times. He's stood in front of the media, either at the podium or his locker, trying to provide answers.

The only answer might be this team isn't good enough to reach the playoffs.

"It's disappointing when you don't come out with a win," Romo said. "At the same time, we have to [put the Washington] loss behind us and get right on to Philadelphia."