Cowboys offense shutters, stalls and shoots itself in the cleats

As Tony Romo and Dez Bryant came out of the tunnel, headed toward the team bus, a small group of Cowboys fans yelled positive encouragement.

Bryant, downcast, never looked up. Romo nodded, raised his hand and quietly muttered, “Appreciate you.”

The Cowboys outgained the Chiefs 298 yards to 223, but they shot themselves in the cleats all day. If it wasn’t a drop here, it was a fumble there … or a penalty here or poor execution there.

“We were disappointed,” offensive coordinator Bill Callahan said. “We’ve played better. But give credit to the Chiefs. They did a fine job. We just didn’t make the plays when we had to make them.”

The Cowboys lost the field position battle, and they lost the turnover battle, and in a close game, that was the difference.

Dallas’ average drive start was its own 21, and only one of 12 possessions started in Kansas City territory, and that was on the series that ended the first half with a Tony Romo kneel down after a blocked field goal. Five times the Cowboys started inside their own 20.

“It was big,” Romo said. “This game, in a lot of ways, came down to field position. It’s tough to go 80, 90 yards, 95 yards consistently against that defense in that environment. It’s going to wear on you. Once again, no one cares, we’ve still got to get the job done and find a way to do it. But you’ve got to find chunk plays and kind of get to stuff that can help you on it. We’ve got to do a better job.”

After winning the turnover battle with six takeaways and only one giveaway last week, the Cowboys got no takeaways and lost two fumbles.

Running back Lance Dunbar caught a pass from Romo and fumbled as he crossed midfield on a hit by linebacker Akeem Jordan. Eric Berry ran it back 22 yards to set up a Chiefs field goal.

“I was trying to make a play, but I was going down,” Dunbar said. “Right before I hit the ground, his hand hit the ball. … It’s very disappointing. You see how much we lost by. It really hurt us. I’ve got to keep moving on, try to stop that from happening.”

Five plays later, on the Cowboys’ next series, Romo was hit from behind by cornerback Ron Parker. Parker’s hit jarred the ball loose, and Parker recovered.

“It’s bang-bang at the time,” Romo said. “… It was disappointing. I didn’t feel the defender there, and we had Miles [Austin] for a big gain if I could have gotten it out. I should have pulled the trigger a hair sooner.”

On the Cowboys’ next possession, Bryant dropped a perfectly thrown ball at midfield after getting behind Brandon Flowers. Although Bryant had a big day with nine catches for 141 yards and a touchdown, the one that got away will bother him until next week.

“I thought I had it,” Bryant said. “That’s what I was thinking. I took my eyes off of the ball. I shouldn’t have. That was a real bad mistake on my end. That is not winning football. That’s something that I just don’t do. Can’t do that. Can’t win like that.”

Bryant had an offensive pass interference penalty that negated a 22-yard gain in the first half. And Dallas blew a red-zone chance in the third quarter, settling for a field goal after having first-and-goal from the 5. Romo was sacked; guard Ron Leary had a false start; and Terrance Williams lost 3 yards on a receiver screen to back up the Cowboys.

“We felt like we had them on the ropes, and then we had a turnover and some three-and-outs,” tight end Jason Witten said. “That’s not the offense we want to be. We’ve got a good group. We’ll turn it around and get it fixed.”

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