sistaff
Friday November 4th, 2011

The Cowboys ran nine offensive plays in the first quarter of Sunday night's loss to Philadelphia. The results? Two sacks, a holding penalty, an interception and 45 yards gained. They didn't fare much better in the second quarter -- 11 plays and two first downs.

In the meantime, the Philadelphia offense was rolling. It was 21-0 Eagles by the end of the first and 24-0 at the half.

It's probably no surprise, then, that the Cowboys' game plan went right out the window in a comeback effort. It also should come as no surprise that Philadelphia handled Dallas' revised approach with ease -- after falling into that early hole, the Cowboys became utterly predictable.

And the numbers to back it up, via FOXSportsSouthwest.com:

Thirty-nine of 49 snaps out of the shotgun and all but one of those out of an "S11" formation, which is Tony Romo in the 'gun with one running back, one tight end and three wide receivers. Dallas had 12 third- or fourth-down situations on offense during the game -- and used that same formation all 12 times. The Cowboys passed 39 times to just 10 run plays.

The rather vanilla approach let Philadelphia tee off. The Eagles' defensive line pinned its ears back and pressured Romo into four sacks.

Philadelphia also took Dez Bryant and Miles Austin almost completely out of the game. Bryant finished with five targets and three receptions for 28 yards; Austin was thrown to just three times, resulting in three catches for 27 yards. Jason Witten also had his worst game of the season, finishing with four grabs for just 28 yards, despite being targeted 12 times.

Plain and simple, Philadelphia put Dallas in a hole early, then refused to let the Cowboys out.

"We had nine plays and we were already down 21-0," Cowboys receiver Laurent said. "It kind of threw us back and we were in hurry-up mode the whole time, trying to get points on the board as quickly as we could."

Dallas' inability to stop Philadelphia early had to weigh on Jason Garrett's play calling, but a case could be made that the Cowboys got away from their run game way too early. DeMarco Murray had 32 yards rushing on three carries in the first quarter, then broke one off for 20 yards early in the second. He got just four more carries after that, though.

The other point of frustration, at least for Cowboys' fans if not the players themselves, is that Romo had his full arsenal of weapons -- aside from injured back Felix Jones -- and still couldn't get anything going.

Austin and Bryant have been banged up at different points this season, but this was their third straight game in the lineup together, so any rust should have been long since gone.

It's this type of outing that adds fuel to the Tony Romo fire in Dallas. Romo, deserved or not, has been in the crosshairs for almost his entire career with the Cowboys. A huge portion of the time, that criticism is faulty. But games like Sunday night's bring his issues to the forefront.

The calls for Romo's head might increase in volume, too, if Dallas can't rebound for its 3-4 start to challenge in the NFC East. Any chance the Cowboys have of staying in the race relies on the offense's ability to put up points. Given the number of weapons present -- Romo, Murray, Jones (when he's healthy), Witten, Austin, Bryant and the emerging Laurent Robinson -- Dallas should have one of the NFL's more formidable offenses. But it was treading water against the Eagles Sunday.

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