The NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys are wondering what’s going on with their offense.
The Cowboys expect a banged-up Tony Romo(notes) to play Thursday afternoon, but they could be without leading receiver Jason Witten(notes) when they host the Oakland Raiders for the first time in 11 years.
Dallas (7-3) has failed to score through the first three quarters of its last two games, losing 17-7 at Green Bay on Nov. 15 and winning 7-6 over Washington on Sunday.
It was determined that Romo was suffering from back problems in the aftermath of Sunday’s win. The Cowboys feel he is improving and will start Thursday.
“We’ve already talked to Tony and he says he feels a lot better. …. He had a little bit of stiffness. He had quite a bit during the ballgame, but says he feels a lot better,” coach Wade Phillips said.
Witten, who has a team-best 54 catches for 481 yards, will be a game-time decision Thursday after spraining his foot against the Redskins.
Romo has two touchdowns and two interceptions the last two games after having eight and one during the preceding four-game win streak. He completed 15 of 27 passes for 158 yards Sunday, capping a nine-play, 60-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown to Patrick Crayton(notes) with 2:41 left for the winning score.
The Cowboys, who lead Philadelphia and New York by one game in the East, still have the league’s fifth-ranked offense. They’d like to see it get untracked.
“We know we’ve got to start picking it up. Not just for our fans, but for ourselves too,” Crayton said. “It’s going to be good for us to come out Thursday and be sharp and be crisp. It’s got to look like we are really doing something out there.”
Romo is 3-0 on Thanksgiving with 10 touchdowns, two interceptions and a 71.4 completion percentage.
Dallas will see a familiar face in Oakland defensive end Greg Ellis(notes), who spent his first 11 seasons with the Cowboys. Ellis played outside linebacker the last two seasons before he was released by the Cowboys and decided to sign with the Raiders thanks to a convincing recruiting pitch by owner Al Davis.
“That’s the game that Al Davis told me about when he first called me,” Ellis said in the preseason. “He said, ‘Greg, guess where we’re going to be on Thanksgiving.’ I said, ‘Where?.’ He said, ‘We’re going to be in Dallas playing your Dallas Cowboys.’”
Oakland (3-7) ended its three-game skid behind Bruce Gradkowski(notes), who made his first start since Dec. 28 with Cleveland. Gradkowski finished an 80-yard drive by completing a tying 29-yard touchdown pass to rookie Louis Murphy(notes) with 33 seconds to go.
“I don’t know that you can ask for a better closing drive than what he did there,” coach Tom Cable said.
The Raiders’ 20 points matched a season high, and the defense was grateful for the support.
“The defense isn’t going to be perfect,” cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha(notes) said. “There’s going to be times when you give up two touchdowns or something. But you know that the offense is going to have your back, that type of thing. And they showed that.”
While the emergence of Gradkowski leaves the Raiders with questions surrounding the future of former top overall draft pick JaMarcus Russell(notes), Cable has indicated he will worry about that later as he tries to give his team its best chance to win. That makes the Raiders dangerous to the Cowboys.
The Raiders have won three straight to take a 6-3 lead in the all-time series. They won 13-12 in their last visit to Dallas in 1998.