Gil LeBreton

End-zone miseries have made it tough to gauge these Cowboys

The Cowboys’ inability to score points without Tony Romo now threatens to cloud the off-season evaluation of the entire team.
The Cowboys’ inability to score points without Tony Romo now threatens to cloud the off-season evaluation of the entire team. Star-Telegram

For the fourth time in this mercilessly forgettable Dallas Cowboys season, the offense failed to produce a touchdown.

America’s Team, with an American Standard offense.

This, despite a concerted effort by Owner Jones in recent NFL drafts to make the Cowboys more “Romo-friendly” — to nestle quarterback Tony Romo in a cocoon of pass rush-neutering high draft picks.

This, despite the head coach’s offensive pedigree.

This, despite the sad truth that the 2015 Cowboys are playing in the weakest division in professional football.

“I don’t know that I could document that,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said, when confronted with the bleak touchdown statistic. “But I would say that it’s certainly been one of the bigger disappointments this year.

“Field goals aren’t going to cut it. It’s been an Achilles heel of ours this year.”

The latest end-zone shutout came Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium, home of the Buffalo Bills and one of those AFC venues that the Cowboys visit infrequently — like when some Hollywood celebrity runs to the nearby Kroger.

Except, here’s the catch this season: The Cowboys have become B-list NFL celebrities. Their win-loss record, a wince-inducing 4-11, unmasks them as the wannabes that they are.

The Bills won 16-6 Sunday, meaning that the Cowboys’ season finale against Washington next weekend likely will have little more than novelty appeal.

Help. They’ve fallen and they can’t get up.

It isn’t all rotten luck and the injured Romo’s fault, however. Not if you ask Linehan.

“I don’t want to point to any reason,” he said. “It’s challenging when your starting quarterback gets hurt, especially a guy of his caliber. But you’ve got to step up to the plate and get it done with the next group of guys who come in.”

On Sunday it was Kellen Moore’s turn. A record-setting quarterback in college at Boise State, Moore’s NFL pedigree was being tested as a starter for the first time.

Everybody else before him was (a) hurt, (b) released or (c) deemed unfit, even in a four-win season.

Moore did ... OK. I mean, he didn’t accidentally hand the football off to Miss Colombia or anything.

But he did throw a few ducks and had another interception when he threw the ball behind Brice Butler on a slant. His passer rating for the day, 48.6, suggests some remedial work is in order. He likely will get it against the Redskins.

When asked what he most liked about young Moore’s performance, Linehan said: “Operating the offense. He was prepared for being able to play the game of football at the quarterback position. You can just see how much experience he has.

“He never gets rattled, and he made a couple of really nice checks, which I’ve never seen a guy starting his first game do.”

Moore did show poise, as befits someone who was 50-3 as a college quarterback. But the Bills were not in awe of Moore’s throwing arm, and it showed.

For the 10th time this season, a stand-in quarterback for the injured Romo failed to deliver a victory.

The struggles on offense, particularly in the first half of games — four touchdowns in two months — now threaten to cloud the off-season evaluation of the entire team. Is the marquee offensive line not as impregnable as it seemed four months ago? How safe is Terrance Williams’ receiving job?

And with the offense so touchdown-starved, does it mean Owner Jones needs to restock with defenders who can produce turnovers?

When he was asked after the game Sunday what he thought was behind the lack of touchdowns, coordinator Linehan said: “I don’t really have any theories. I think each week I could point to something. But it’s collective things, breakdowns in execution, look at what we’re doing — you know, all that stuff.”

Yep. All that stuff.

The injured quarterback. The penalties. The red-zone struggles. Maybe even the head coach.

Add it all up, and the Cowboys are 4-11 disappointments.

America’s Team, maybe. But with a season that’s been hard to flush.

Gil LeBreton: 817-390-7697, glebreton, @gilebreton

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