Can Cowboys QB Tony Romo still let it rip?

IRVING, Texas -- Tony Romo insists he's throwing the ball better than ever.

"As far as down the field, I'm throwing the ball really well," the Dallas Cowboys quarterback said. "I'm excited about that."

The statistics, as well as your eyes, must be lying.

Romo, who attributed a couple of passes that fluttered to poor body positioning and not decreased arm strength after two back surgeries, hasn't taken many shots downfield this season. He attempted only five passes that traveled farther than 20 yards in the air during the Cowboys' first two games. He completed one -- a 56-yard gain by Dwayne Harris, who had to wait for a severely underthrown pass and outjump a defensive back to make the catch -- and was picked off once.

"We've been an explosive pass offense for a long time," coach Jason Garrett said. "That's not something that concerns us terribly."

The Cowboys have been an explosive pass offense for a long time. Is that in the past tense with Romo at quarterback?

Romo averaged 7.2 yards per attempt last season, by far a career low. That has dropped to 6.9 this season.

Romo, one of the league's premier vertical passers for most of his starting tenure, simply hasn't been as effective attacking downfield as he used to be. This isn't just a two-game sample size. It's a trend that dates to October 2013, after his 506-yard performance in the shootout loss to the Denver Broncos.

Since that game, Romo is 11-of-38 (28.9 percent) on passes that travel 20-plus yards in the air for 374 yards with only one touchdown and one interception. Compare that to his numbers on 20-plus-yard passes in 91 games from 2006 to 2012: 137-of-356 (38.5 percent) for 5,179 yards and 50 touchdowns with 23 interceptions.

Romo doesn't take as many risks as he did earlier in his career, which is an especially smart approach during games like Sunday's win against the Tennessee Titans, when the Cowboys needed their quarterback to be a bus driver to complement a dominant running game.

When the Cowboys need Romo to let it rip, can he still do it?

"He, like everybody else, is a work in progress, particularly when you're coming back off an injury," Garrett said. "Hopefully over the course of time, you just heal up more and more as you get going."

At some point, the Cowboys will need better from Romo, if not better than ever.