The Dallas Cowboys’ style on offense last week was jaw-dropping — down the field, high-octane and impressive.
But not necessarily permanent.
The Cowboys caution that they cannot keep up that kind of pace all year, that it was a result of what the defense was allowing, that they knew they would need to score on every or nearly every possession against Peyton Manning, and that every game is different.
But the performance — with touchdowns on six of nine possessions, with eight plays covering 25 yards or more, including an 82-yard touchdown to Terrance Williams and a 79-yard catch by Dez Bryant — remains so impressive, even in a loss, that everyone wants the Cowboys to do it again.
“Well, you certainly want to play with the same style,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Statistically, I don’t know if we’ll replicate that. It hasn’t been done very much in the history of the franchise. So you just try to play with that same attacking, aggressive style.”
That style resulted in three 100-yard receivers, a team record 506 passing yards for quarterback Tony Romo and perhaps renewed confidence for an offense that was shut out in the second half the week before.
“That’s the standard — it should be. It’s no other way,” Bryant said. “We are explosive. That’s our identity — our explosive offense.”
So why not keep that identity?
Why not just ditch all pretenses and commit to what the Cowboys’ offense does best — attack through the air?
“I don’t think so,” tight end Jason Witten said. “I really think we’ve done a good job kind of allowing the game to unfold and see where we’re having success attacking. Look at the St. Louis game, and obviously last week — I thought we ran the ball pretty well. I still think you win by establishing your run game, and we had some big runs that opened up a lot of things for us.”
For as much as the Cowboys like the word “attack,” they also like the word “balance.”
“I think we play our best football when we’re balanced, and we attack a lot of different ways,” Garrett said. “There are games when we have run the ball a lot and we have been balanced and then all of a sudden we run it a lot. And then similarly, we have had some games where we have been fairly balanced and then we start throwing it, making big plays in the passing game. That’s a part of making the right adjustments in the ballgame and attacking the defense where they need to be attacked on that particular day.”
It is better right now for the Cowboys to temper expectations about how explosive they can be.
Romo might have shown he remains capable of being the “gunslinger” quarterback who can throw to any part of the field, but he is an asset the Cowboys must protect. He already has had to overcome bruised ribs. And the more they ask him to make long throws, the longer the offensive line has to protect.
“I think we were able to do that this year more than in previous years because we are a better offensive line,” Garrett said. “We have really helped ourselves up front with the addition of some players. We are stronger up front. It allows you to play a little more downhill at them running the football and in the passing game.”
Last week set the standard for how well the Cowboys’ offense can execute what it always talks about.
“Obviously the best we’ve done it all year, the best we’ve ever done it,” Witten said.
Now it’s a matter of doing it again.
Perhaps on a more permanent basis.