IRVING, Texas — For the Dallas Cowboys, practice hasn’t made perfect.
At least that’s the impression given by quarterback Tony Romo in a media session Thursday at Valley Ranch.
Two things wounded the Cowboys in Sunday’s 31-29 loss to the Ravens: clock management and penalties. While being careful not to criticize teammates, Romo said the Cowboys work on both in practices, but aren’t seeing the results.
The biggest example was the Cowboys’ failure to get off another offensive play after snapping the ball with 26 seconds left and possessing a timeout.
“We talk all the time about those situations,” Romo said. “We obviously wanted to run another play and we had it.”
Romo didn’t say it, but the Cowboys do more than “talk” about game situations, especially those in the final seconds. They practice them … all the time. Every football team, even high school teams, practices two-minute drills and last-second situations.
The problem the Cowboys had was no one but Romo appeared aware of the circumstances. As the final seconds ticked down, receivers Miles Austin and Kevin Ogletree half-jogged and walked back to the line of scrimmage, wasting precious seconds.
The lack of urgency forced the Cowboys to burn the final timeout and made kicker Dan Bailey attempt a 51-yarder, which missed. Even five more yards could have made the difference between winning and losing.
“When you look back, they had to sprint downfield whatever it was, 30 yards, to get back,” Romo said. “When you look at the time on the clock, it all needs to happen faster to get back in that position.
“You’re on the road. It’s really loud. They can’t necessarily hear what’s going on after they’ve just ran their route. So they don’t know whether you’ve taken timeout or what it is, and things of that nature.”
Of course, had the receivers sprinted back to the line of scrimmage, they might have been able to hear whether a timeout was called. Romo remained as diplomatic as possible.
“They obviously, now having gone through it, know [to have a sense of urgency],” Romo said. “It just needs to, you know, you just need to feel that sense.”
The Cowboys might want to pursue more diplomacy with the officials. They were flagged for 13 penalties in the loss in Baltimore. It’s the third time this season the Cowboys have been hit with 13 penalties. Ironically, the other two times were wins over the Giants and Tampa Bay.
The Cowboys are fourth in the league in penalties with 46, a trend that persists despite attempts to correct it.
“There’s no excuses for us having the penalties we’ve had,” Romo said. “We’ve tried and we’ve coached it a million different ways. We’ve talked to the guys. You just have to do it better.”
Just like with the late-game management drills, Romo said the work the Cowboys have done to eliminate penalties in practice hasn’t materialized on Sundays.
“You’ve got to do it during practice, day in, day out and just carry it over to the game,” Romo said. “Guys are doing better at that during practice and hopefully that will show up going forward.
“That’s been our biggest deterrent to this point, just putting yourselves in bad situations in tough spots on the football field. If we can correct that, we’ve got a chance to be a good offense. Until you do that, you’re always going to fight an uphill battle.”