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Six Things We're Thinking: Tony Romo, From Gunslinger To ... Sharpshooter?

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Will the pass defense hold up in the playoffs? Will OL-continuity be an issue? The Romo-Bryant connection. Just three of the things we've been thinking about recently.

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Random musings, misgivings, and wildly hyperbolic postulations from the BTB writers.

From gunslinger to ... sharpshooter?

Tom Ryle: I am struck by how much better the team does when it isn't putting all the weight on Tony Romo's shoulders. He is so much more efficient with the team sticking to the run. Defenses have to pick their poison now, and they either see the running game get big yards, or they watch Romo tear them up. As has been remarked on, all four losses came when Romo was not physically ready, or hurt. When he is on his game, the offense finds a way to win and just needs the defense to get a few stops in key places.

That does raise some concerns with Murray, Free and Martin nicked up, but this team has taken challenges in stride so far this season. As long as Romo is playing effectively, this version of the Cowboys can play with anyone. They face the third of the three big challenges this season against Indianapolis (Seattle and Philadelphia being the others), so we will find out how successful they can be this year on Sunday, but you have to feel pretty good about their chances coming off the grounding of the Eagles.

Romo and Bryant ... Riggs and Murtaugh?

Rabblerousr: I'm thinking about Tony Romo to Dez Bryant. Over the last four games, no quarterback is playing more efficiently than Romo. In that span, he's 79-112, for a tidy 70.5 completion rate. And, although his yardage totals aren't eye-popping (944 yards, 236 yards per game), his efficiency has been spectacular: 10 touchdowns and just two interceptions, both of which came against the Eagles on Thanksgiving. Because of this, his four-game passer rating of 118.3 leads the NFL.

And he's been most potent when throwing to Bryant. Like Romo, Bryant's numbers aren't eye-popping - in the last four games, Dez has hauled in 23 passes (on 31 targets) for 355 yards - but have been the model of efficiency. Check it: when Romo throws to Number 88 over the last four weeks, he boasts a 147.8 passer rating. And Bryant shares an NFL-high 5 touchdowns over that four game span.

If anybody was wondering why the Cowboys kept hammering DeMarco Murray into the teeth of the Eagles defense on Sunday night, these numbers should provide some clarity: the threat he provides allows Dallas' top passing combo to operate with explosiveness and lethal efficiency.

Will the pass defense hold up in the playoffs?

OCC: After the first four games of the season, I wrote that an improved Passer Rating Differential remains key for Cowboys success in 2014. At the time, the Cowboys had a PRD of "just" +4.5, and I argued that to get to ten wins, they'd need at least a PRD of 13. Today, the Cowboys have a PRD of 15.9 and are on their way to their 11th win of the season, so that's worked out well.

In that original post, I also argued that with an offensive passer rating of 98.7 and a defensive passer rating of 94.2, the required improvement in PRD would likely have to come from the defense, as the Cowboys were "already one of the top teams on offense". Here's what happened instead:

After 4 Games 
After 14 games 
Improvement 
Passer Rating Offense 98.7 106.9 +8.2
Passer Rating Defense 
94.2 91.0 +3.2
PRD 4.5 15.9 +11.4

The offense has improved from very good to stellar (ranked 2nd in the league behind only the Packers), while the defense has also improved a little, and is now ranked 18th in the league. Combined the 15.9 PRD is the fourth best value in the league.

As the possibility of postseason play begins to take shape for the Cowboys, the offensive firepower has got to be a reason for hope, while the pass defense has got to be a cause for concern, especially once the Cowboys have to face QBs who can actually throw the ball, like Aaron Rodgers (111.2 passer rating), Drew Brees (101.4), and to a lesser extent Matthew Stafford (87.8).

Will OL-continuity be an issue?

Neithan20000: I'm worried about the Doug Free injury. I know that most of us think that Parnell acquitted himself quite well in his three games starting, and on an individual level he did.

But line play isn't just about how each individual does, it's how the group does as a whole. Despite his decent individual play I'm worried that having Parnell in throws off the line as a unit, as he may not communicate the same, not pass off the same, etc. It's no coincidence that two of our worst line games came during Parnell's tenure as a starter.

Again, not a knock on Parnell, but the lack of continuity worries me.

That'll be the battle in Seattle

Dawn Macelli: Looking back over my tenure on the front page, and even back to when I penned the occasional Fanpost, one recurring theme that I touched on was that the Cowboys had yet to figure out how to win. Mark this date on your calendar: October 12, 2014. That is the day the Dallas Cowboys went into Seattle, Washington, and learned how to win. They passed the final exam in the NFL's most hostile environment.

That day the Cowboys spotted the home team an early lead, surrendered a blocked punt for a touchdown, and turned the ball over on a Dwayne Harris muffed punt return and a Travis Frederick bad snap. That is a lot to overcome anywhere, but in the Seahawks' house, it should have been fatal. Not for this group. When all was said and done, the Dallas Cowboys held strong and walked off with a hard fought victory over the defending Super Bowl champs. They had proven to the league and to themselves that there was something different about these Cowboys.

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ... cherry ice cream?

Gary Morris: I am thinking about Zack Martin and how important he is to playing his best and not missing any games. I think we can afford to have replacements for Murray and Free and get by much better than if Martin has to sit out. He is the cherry on the top of the ice cream to this offensive line and the straw that stirs the drink.