Friday, December 26, 2008

Dallas Cowboys look to receive more production from wideouts

The Dallas Morning News

Dec. 26--IRVING -- In the last three weeks, the Cowboys faced some of the top defenses in the NFL.

Pittsburgh, the New York Giants and Baltimore limited the Cowboys to 19 points 312 yards per game. Cowboys entered that stretch averaging 24.9 points and 356 yards.

In the regular-season finale Sunday, the Cowboys face Philadelphia, the third-ranked defense in the league.

If the Cowboys are to win and reach the postseason, their three primary wide receivers must be more of a factor.

Yet, there is still some uncertainty among the wide receivers regarding whether or not the offense is headed in the right direction.

"If we do the necessary things," Terrell Owens said. "If Tony [Romo] has the time and we get holes for guys who run the ball effectively and Tony can pass effectively, we can't be stopped."

Poor route running, bad throws, inadequate protection and even the weather can slow an offense.

In last week's loss to Baltimore, Romo overthrew a wide-open Miles Austin on a route that could have led to a touchdown. In the Pittsburgh game, Romo missed several open receivers, including Patrick Crayton on fourth down of the Cowboys' last possession.

Owens cut short a route in the Ravens loss, and Roy Williams has virtually disappeared in the last three games. A foot injury that limits how much he can practice could explain his issues.

Romo said Pittsburgh and Baltimore showed coverages he's never seen before, causing him to hold the ball too long or hurry throws while he tried to read the defense.

"I think every year that goes on, [defenses] come up with new little things that just attack," Romo said. "That's why you try to run the football. ... If you can run the ball, usually it can get you out of that junk a little bit, so we'll try to run the ball this week and get after Philadelphia a little bit."

Following the loss in Pittsburgh, Crayton, Williams and Owens met separately with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to express concern about the offense.

Since then, Crayton and Owens said they have seen some positive results.

Williams, meanwhile, is not so happy.

"For me, I'm still doing the same stuff," Williams said. "I'm not saying I want the ball every play, but just to be involved in the game, that's what I'm used to. As long as we win I don't care; when we lose, that's when I get frustrated."

When the Cowboys gave up a package including their 2009 first- and third-round draft picks to get Williams from Detroit at the trade deadline, he was expected to be a big-play threat down the field and take pressure off Owens and tight end Jason Witten.

But Williams has just 17 catches for 194 yards with one touchdown in nine games.

"You obviously know what I am capable of doing," Williams said. "You wouldn't have spent what you spent to get a person -- not just me, but any person. You know what I can do."

Crayton said the positive results from the meetings with Garrett came in a victory over the New York Giants on Dec. 14. In that game, Romo completed passes to a season-high nine different players. The Cowboys had 321 yards of offense against the league's sixth-ranked defense.

"When the ball is distributed like that, we get Ws," Crayton said. "Against Philly, we all have to be contributors. It has to be spread out. It they are doubling somebody, it's got to go somewhere else. If they want to play some zone, hit the hole in the zone -- don't matter who it is -- and keep it going from there."

Now comes Philadelphia, ranked second against the pass and sixth against the run. If the Cowboys can't find ways to score, the season will be lost.

"As an offense, we haven't played as well as we should have," Owens said. "There's room for improvement. Now is the time to clean it up. We're going into this game where we have to win, there is no more excuses, no more about pointing fingers and this and that. We just have to go out and play football."


The Cowboys' offensive production the last three weeks:

WR PRODUCTION How the Cowboys' top three wide receivers have fared the last three weeks (receptions-yards-touchdowns):