Five interceptions in the Dallas Cowboys’ 34-18 loss to the Chicago Bears Monday placed quarterback Tony Romo and his job at the forefront of the NFL this week.
It is easy to use Monday's game as the reason to blame Romo for the Cowboys' woes, but blame may lie on the entire Dallas offense.
The Cowboys' quarterback has seen better days. Romo is currently 23rd in the NFL with a 78.5 passer rating, and has just five touchdowns along with eight interceptions through four games.
Critics may be quick to point to though lackluster stats as a reason to bench the quarterback, but such action might be both premature and short-sighted. Romo is a three-time Pro Bowler, with a career passer rating of 95.9, and has completed 64.6 percent of his passes.
During his seven seasons as a starter, Romo never finished a passer rating below 91.4, and while he is on pace to surpass his career-high 19 interceptions in 2007, he also threw 36 touchdowns in the same season.
Romo’s play can improve if those around him at the line of scrimmage play up to their potential. The Dallas receivers, particularly Dez Bryant, have not lived up to the hype this season, as the unit has just six touchdowns in four games.
Miles Austin leads the team with 18 receptions for 300 yards and three touchdowns, and Kevin Ogletree has 17 catches for 269 yards and two scores. Bryant, however, has been targeted 33 times and made 21 receptions for 269 yards and no scores.
Romo’s first interception on Monday resulted in a Bears touchdown when Bryant ran the wrong route and kept going even when Chicago had secured possession. Bryant did make eight catches for 105 yards against the Bears, but his miscommunication with Romo ignited the Cowboys' disappointing night.
Then there is the offensive line, where injuries and penalties have been a problem since training camp. Center Phil Costa is still nursing a bad back and has only taken three snaps during the regular season, and in their narrow 16-10 escape from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week Three, right tackle Doug Free committed four of the line’s six penalties.
While Dallas only conceded one sack and two quarterback hits, the Cowboys offensive line allowed the Bears to hurry Romo, which forced him to scramble and make poor decisions in the pocket.
The running game didn't do Romo many favors on Monday, either. DeMarco Murray managed just 24 rushing yards on 11 carries, as the offensive line failed to open up any holes. In his last three games, Murray has totaled only 106 yards on the ground.
"There is no question [we have to get better]," said Dallas offensive line coach Bill Callahan, to the Fort-Worth Star Telegram. "I'm not going to sugarcoat this. We did not play well [against Tampa Bay on Sunday] and we are not playing well right now. We've got to improve. We've got to become a more consistent unit across the board. We are not pleased where we are at. Certainly not our standard."