Where has Cowboys' offense gone?

IRVING, Texas -- After scoring 48 points and putting up 522 yards against the Denver Broncos on Oct. 6, there was a feeling the Dallas Cowboys had found an offensive identity.

The Cowboys moved up and down the field thanks mostly to the right arm of Tony Romo but they were good enough on the ground in the game as well. They were able to come away with touchdowns in the red zone.

It was the signature performance of the season.

Expecting 48 points and 522 yards is not reasonable, except maybe in a video game world, but the Cowboys have looked nothing like that offense in their wins against the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles.

They had 213 yards in 50 plays against the Redskins. They ran 75 plays for 368 yards against the Eagles and Chris Jones had to punt nine times.

Finding out why is not that hard.

Opportunities were limited against the Redskins with touchdown drives starting at the Washington 15 and 3 after a Dwayne Harris kickoff return and a fumble recovery.

Against the Eagles the culprit was third-down inefficiency. The Cowboys converted on only five of 16 opportunities. The Cowboys had 10 chances to convert third-and-5 yards or less and got a first down only five times. Percentage wise, they were just as good on third-and-10 or more (two of four).

“We have to be more efficient,” coach Jason Garrett said. “In Washington last week, some of the opportunities were limited because the return game was so good for us. We just didn’t have as many plays, as many opportunities. But in (Sunday’s) game, we did have a lot of opportunities, but we didn’t extend those opportunities because we weren’t as good as needed to be on third downs. Third downs are a critical piece in this game. If you look at the third down misses we had in this game, there were a lot of manageable misses. There was a third-and-1, there were a couple third-and-2s, I think we had seven or eight of them that were third-and-7 or less, and we’ve got to be able to cash in on those opportunities and we didn’t do that on a consistent enough basis. We got ourselves to manageable enough situations, and you’ve got to make a play on that down.

“Some of that was because of their pressure package. They brought some people. We didn’t handle that as well as we have in the past. We’ve got to make sure we clean that up. Some of that was just flat out just executing ball plays. I do think we did a good job in this ballgame understanding where we were in the game and making critical drives, coming out in the second half. I think we had a couple 10-play drives that were scoring opportunities for us in that game. If you can just get it two scores, then hopefully three scores, that can be the difference in the game as well as the defense was playing.”