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Turn Tony Loose: Romo's Gotta Go Deep

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The Cowboys have a pretty steady diet of creampuffs on the slate over the next few weeks, something that is keeping confidence in the team afloat despite Sunday night's disaster.

    It should be seen as more than just a chance to win some games against bad teams, though. It should also be seen as a chance to get Tony Romo back to being the Tony Romo that the Cowboys will need if they are going to do anything at the end of the season and in the playoffs.

    The team has said otherwise, but it seems pretty clear that they have put the wraps on Romo to a certain extent as a result of his disasters early in the season. The clearest way to illustrate how few chances the Cowboys are taking down the field is in Romo's yards per pass attempt. Once you factor in sacks and the yards lost on them, Romo is averaging just seven yards per pass attempt, the lowest figure of his career and a number usually reserved for the dregs of the league instead of guys capable of doing what Romo can do.

    You can explain the low number without assuming the Cowboys are limiting Romo. Miles Austin and Dez Bryant have missed time with injuries, which takes a toll on anyone's willingness to put the ball up in the air, and Romo has been sacked 15 times already this season. If the line can't protect him long enough to find a receiver down the field, there's certainly going to be an impact on the amount of times you try to throw deep.

    All of that makes sense, but watching the games reveals a team that simply isn't looking in that direction. Against a woeful Patriots secondary, Romo couldn't even get to seven yards per attempt and that's been his best game since Week Two against the 49ers. The offense's design is almost entirely about making sure Romo avoids mistakes at every turn and playing scared isn't a strategy for success over the long term.

    That's why this soft spot in the schedule should be exploited to maximum effect. Have Romo look deep for Austin and Bryant a few times each game, at least, because you don't have to have the same worry that an interception is going to spell doom for your team. If you call a play early and it does result in a pick, don't abandon the idea because of a bad result.

    Austin, Bryant and Romo were three of the biggest reasons for confidence in the Cowboys coming into the season. They need to remember that when making the game plan for the weeks to come, especially with DeMarco Murray giving mediocre defenses a reason to worry about stepping up to stop the running game.

    It's time to turn Romo loose again and use this stretch in the schedule to make those bad early days a distant memory.