IRVING, Texas — Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has spent the past two games being used as a piqata by opposing defensive linemen and watching his favorite receiver, tight end Jason Witten, let a season's worth of passes slip through his fingers.
Although there has been no public grumbling from Romo, teammates understand the frustration that is building within their offensive leader as the Cowboys (2-1) prepare to face Chicago (2-1), the team that leads the NFL in sacks (14), in Monday's game at Cowboys Stadium.
“We've been around Tony long enough that we can tell, based on his facial expressions, how he's feeling. He shows his emotions to us,” offensive guard Nate Livings said. “So he doesn't have to say anything. We see what he's going through.”
That included four sacks and multiple knockdowns, triggering two lost fumbles in pass-rush situations, in a 16-10 victory Sunday over Tampa Bay. It has included an NFL-high five dropped passes this season by Witten, a seven-time Pro Bowler whose “season” average for drops had been three per year over the past four seasons (2008-2011), based on data collected by STATS, Inc.
“I'm sure he's wondering what's wrong,” Witten said of his uncharacteristic drops of Romo passes. “At the end of the day, those are big plays for him, big plays for our offense. You don't just get built in to get those throws. next time because of what number is on the back of the jersey. It's a show-me game.”
And Romo, for now, is showing remarkable patience while maintaining a positive outlook about a Dallas offense that is tied for last among NFL teams in scoring average (15.6 per game). The Cowboys' 47 points marks the fewest in a three-game stretch by a Romo-led offense since 2009.
Despite Romo's 89.3 passer rating and 64.8 completion rate, the offense regularly plays from behind the chains because of 12 false-start penalties in three games.
But Romo said Friday that his confidence level working behind the team's rebuilt offensive line remains high — he gave it a “10” on a 1-10 scale — and that frustration, from his perspective, has yet to surface.
“No,” Romo said. “It's about winning and losing. You want to execute to the highest level each week. But at the same time, winning and losing is what it comes down to. All the other stuff is just about getting better.”
From an offensive standpoint, Romo acknowledged that the Cowboys “need to do the little things better” if they are to build on their 2-1 start. Toward that end, he has addressed the offense's shortcomings, particularly the pre-snap penalties, in discussions with teammates.
“You're always letting the team know what you need to do to be successful,” Romo said. “And me being in a leadership role, that obviously needs to be addressed.
”We need to do the little things better. That will help us a lot because we're already doing enough good things. We just need to minimize the stuff that you can control. The stuff that should be stuff that we're good at.“