RIVAL HEADLINE: Cowboys, Romo catch Bills defenseless

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, avoiding a rush by the Bills' Da'Norris Searcy, barely seemed to break a sweat on Sunday.

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, avoiding a rush by the Bills’ Da’Norris Searcy, barely seemed to break a sweat on Sunday.

Photo courtesy: James P. McCoy /Buffalo News

ARLINGTON, Texas — Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo might as well have played Sunday’s game in a tuxedo. He could have left Cowboys Stadium without taking a shower. He could have sent text messages before throwing some of his passes.

“If you get that extra half a second, the game becomes quite a bit easier,” Romo said after leading Dallas to a 44-7 victory over the Buffalo Bills. “That is a lot of times the simplicity of it.”

Romo and the Cowboys made the game look simple and the Bills’ pass defense look awful.

Romo enjoyed the most accurate passing day ever by a Bills opponent. He connected on 23 of 26 passes — 88.4 percent — for 270 yards and three touchdowns.

In sending the Bills (5-4) to their second straight ugly defeat and their third loss in four games, Dallas exposed a multitude of flaws in Buffalo’s team.

The biggest, however, is the Bills can’t generate any pressure on the quarterback.

Romo wasn’t sacked once and was barely hurried. Take away their 10-sack game against Washington, and the Bills have managed just five sacks in their other eight outings.

“Pressure, coverage, tackling, everything you do on defense needed to be better,” Bills cornerback Drayton Florence said. “The sense of urgency throughout the whole game just wasn’t there.”

“We were trying to come after him a little bit, but we were trying to pick and choose our spots,” Bills coach Chan Gailey said. “You don’t want to commit all out and leave everybody one on one in the back end back there.”

The rush linebackers who were on the field Sunday have combined for just three sacks all season. Spencer Johnson has two. Danny Batten and Arthur Moats have half a sack each. Antonio Coleman, pressed into service due to the injuries to Shawne Merriman and Chris Kelsay, has none.

So Romo sat back and picked the Bills apart. He completed 13 straight passes to open the game and went 18 for 19 in staking Dallas to a 28-7 halftime lead.

On this day, the Bills’ pass coverage was as bad as its edge rushing.

On the first Dallas touchdown, cornerback Leodis McKelvin was stride for stride down the right sideline with 6-foot-2 receiver Dez Bryant. McKelvin looked back for the ball at the right time. But Bryant reached his big body over McKelvin’s head and grabbed the ball away for a 34-yard score.

The Bills blitzed, but safety Jairus Byrd couldn’t get to Romo.

“I was in position,” McKelvin said. “I looked back at the ball and I jumped. He just made the play that I didn’t make. That’s just the way the whole game went.”

“When it’s one on one, what you don’t do with Dez is overthrow him,” Romo said. “The kid played good defense, he had him covered decent. It was Dez just being Dez, going up and getting the ball.”

On the second Dallas drive, the touchdown pass went to Laurent Robinson, from 5 yards out on a third-and-goal situation. Once again, the Bills called a big blitz and safety Bryan Scott rushed free, right up the middle at Romo. But Scott didn’t make the play. Romo made a spin move to his left, and Scott never got a finger on him. Robinson was wide open in the end zone.

Dallas’ third touchdown was a one-play drive, after new Bills kicker Dave Rayner missed a 52-yard field goal try.

On first down, Romo went deep for Robinson, who blazed past Florence down the left side of the field and was wide open for a 58-yard scoring play.

It was clear from the postgame comments that Dallas caught the Bills in the perfect defense to be vulnerable to the bomb. George Wilson, the safety on Florence’s side, bit underneath on a hitch route run by tight end Jason Witten. Florence didn’t think Robinson was going long and hesitated as the receiver blew by him.

“There was something we saw that we thought was going to be favorable, based on what they were playing,” Dallas coach Jason Garrett said. “Laurent did a nice job of running up on the corner and beating him over the top. Jason Witten, if you watch that play closely, did a really good job of eating up the safety, as well.”

“They schemed us on that play,” Florence said. “I could have done better technique. I could have been a little bit higher on him. But that’s a play that we knew was going to come sooner or later in the game and they hit it on us.”

That made it 21-0 just 17:43 into the game.

The Bills’ offense responded with an 80-yard drive to a touchdown on a 3-yard pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to David Nelson.

But any thoughts that this might be an epic comeback like the Bills waged against New England were snuffed out when Romo took the Cowboys to a fourth TD in four possessions to push the lead to 28-7.

Romo was 7 of 8 for 58 yards on that 80-yard march. On third downs in the first half, he was 7 of 7 for 90 yards and a TD.

“Defensively one of the biggest things these past couple weeks has been getting off the field on third down,” said Bills linebacker Kelvin Sheppard. “That’s no secret. We have to go back to the drawing board. Teams are obviously seeing something we’re doing on film. We’re not executing properly. Everything’s drawn up for us, it’s just a matter of going out and doing it. We’ve got people in third and 7s, third and 8s. You’ve got to get off the field.”

Dallas (5-4) held the Bills to just 98 yards in the first half. The Bills allowed only one sack of Fitzpatrick — on a busted assignment on the first play of the game. But Fitzpatrick was harassed repeatedly by Dallas’ pass rushers.

Fitzpatrick finished 20 of 31 for 146 yards, his lowest output of the season. Bills back Fred Jackson finished with 114 yards rushing, most in garbage time in the second half.

Worse for the Bills was the fact center Eric Wood suffered what looked like a sprained knee late in the fourth quarter. Gailey said it probably will keep him out of next week’s game in Miami.

After two straight defeats, that game is shaping up as a must-win for the Bills.

“We’re a good football team but we didn’t show it today,” Florence said. “They whipped our [butt] — that’s the bottom line.”

Courtesy: Mark Gaughan | The Buffalo News

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