The Dallas Cowboys ride into this week on a seven-game skid — their longest since 1989.
They reside alone in the NFC East basement, with their two victories tied for the fewest in the NFL. In fact, they stand a better chance of earning the No. 1 overall pick than they do of getting into the playoffs, based on their Vegas odds.
But Cowboys fans are as hopeful as they’ve been all year.
Welcome back, Tony Romo.
The Cowboys maintain hope because their star quarterback returns this week, and because the other three teams in the division haven’t exactly separated themselves.
“I think he can energize us,” tight end Jason Witten said Monday while serving Thanksgiving meals at The Salvation Army in Dallas. “There’s no question he’s an elite player, and when you play that position, he does a lot of dynamic things with the ball. But we still have to get better at the things, correcting things that are keeping us from winning and not just expect him to be able to overcome those things.
The Cowboys have a better chance of earning the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft than they do of making the playoffs, according to Las Vegas odds.
“I know we’ve lost seven in a row, so I don’t think we’re being unrealistic with where we are, but I do think in a lot of ways we’ve played some good football. We just have to do it collectively — offensively, defensively, special teams — and be able to do it at critical times in the game.”
Romo wouldn’t talk football at the event, but smiled and nodded at fans who suggested that the Cowboys would go 7-0 with his return, potentially rescuing their postseason hopes.
The Cowboys will activate Romo from injured reserve/designated to return later this week. He fractured his left collarbone in the Week 2 victory over the Eagles, and the bone has fully healed.
I think he can energize us. ... But we still have to get better at the things, correcting things that are keeping us from winning and not just expect him to be able to overcome those things.
of Tony Romo
He started practicing two weeks ago.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Romo will continue his practice schedule from last year, working on strength and conditioning Wednesday instead of throwing.
Garrett, though, cautioned that Romo’s return doesn’t automatically cure the team’s ills.
“Certainly when you bring a player like Tony Romo back in, there’s an expectation he’s going to make a positive difference for your team,” Garrett said. “Just like anytime you lose a starter and he comes back, these guys start for a reason.
“But if we feel like just because Tony is back, everything is good, that’s the wrong approach. We have to get better in all three areas. We have to coach better; we have to play better. All three phases of our football team have to play better, and we think Tony can help us do that.”
The Cowboys have averaged 322 total yards, including just 196 passing, in the seven games without Romo. They have failed to score a touchdown in three of the seven games and have averaged just 17 points per game in Romo’s absence.
In the fourth quarter and overtime of the past seven games, opponents have outscored the Cowboys 73-30.
“There’s a lot of things that we haven’t done to allow us to win, and we have to account for that, and really, in the midst of that, realize and understand where we still are,” Witten said. “It’s unlike anything I’ve been a part of in 13 years — to be able to be in this situation and still be in the hunt — so we have to get it corrected and go win one game.”
Opponents have outscored the Cowboys 73-30 in the fourth quarter and overtime of the past seven games.
The Cowboys remain alive because of losses by Philadelphia and the Giants on Sunday. The Giants lead the division at 5-5, with the Eagles and the Redskins each at 4-5. The NFC East has gone 8-15 outside of the division this season.
“I think the biggest thing we have to do is focus on ourselves,” Garrett said. “We don’t want to get distracted by what’s going on in our division. That certainly gives us an opportunity. But the biggest thing we’ve got to do is come back to work tomorrow, clean up the game, get better and get ready for the challenge this week against Miami.”
Cowboys at Dolphins
Noon Sunday, KDFW/4