<
>

Cowboys believe the more Matt Cassel plays, the better he will be

IRVING, Texas -- Sunday was actually Matt Cassel's second start of the 2015 season.

He was technically the Buffalo Bills' starter -- and winner -- in their season opener against the Indianapolis Colts because he was under center for the first snap. He recorded no statistics.

Against the New York Giants, Cassel had plenty of statistics in the Dallas Cowboys' 27-20 loss.

It was the three interceptions that stood out more than the late rally, more than the 227 yards passing, more than the three scoring drives he helped direct in Dallas' five first-half possessions.

“Matt’s played enough to understand that you can’t do those things and typically turnovers and takeaways are a collective thing, but ultimately when you are a quarterback you have the responsibility,” coach Jason Garrett said. “And Matt knows that better than anybody else. Stand up, be accountable for it, and keep moving forward.”

Cassel accepted responsibility with his answers to the first and last questions of his news conference after the game.

While it was his second start of the season, it was the first time Cassel threw a pass in a regular-season game since Week 3 last season with the Minnesota Vikings. He missed the final 12 games with a foot injury. He was traded to the Bills in the offseason but he saw action in only four series of work.

“A few of those throws I’m thinking that I can get it in there,” Cassel said. “One was a comeback, one was an in-cut. The one that got away from me on the go route came out of my hand funny. I’ve got to correct those things and give our team an opportunity to win.”

Leading up to the Giants game, the Cowboys talked about Cassel’s presence. Despite throwing interceptions on three straight drives, Cassel delivered two plays that stood out to Garrett. On third-and-9, he stepped away from trouble and hit Terrance Williams for a 21-yard gain on the sideline. On the next play, he rolled right and hit Devin Street for a 25-yard touchdown with the receiver doing a great job of getting his feet in bounds.

He wasn’t able to put the Cowboys in position to tie the game after Dwayne Harris’ 100-yard kickoff return when his third-down throw was deflected out of his hands and his fourth-down check down to James Hanna fell short of a first down.

“To me it shows you a lot about what he’s all about and I think his teammates see that and so you work to clean up some of the things regarding the ball that prevent you from winning,” Garrett said. “But then you build on a lot of the positive things.”

Even with the mistakes, owner and general manager Jerry Jones came out feeling better about the offense. Cassel had five pass plays of 20 or more yards. The Cowboys had six in Brandon Weeden’s three weeks as a starter.

When Dez Bryant returns, Cassel will have more options to get the ball down the field. The more he plays the more he will feel comfortable, and the more the coaches will feel comfortable with him.

“I would say this, though, the comfort level in this system playing in games helps players,” Garrett said. “The experience that he had within the system and the nuances of playing with particular guys, sometimes those things show up when you don’t have the opportunity to do that in practice and in game situations. That applies to all positions and it probably applies to the quarterback position more than any other. We’ll work through those things, and some of the things that happened in the game that might have been a result of that, we’ll learn from as we go forward.”