NFL Wire News

Weeden under microscope with Cassel learning the offense

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IRVING, Tex. — It’s too early to call Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints a must-win for the Dallas Cowboys.

But it’s a critical situation for backup quarterback Brandon Weeden. He is riding a nine-game losing streak as a starting quarterback dating back to his days with the Cleveland Browns in 2012.

He is 0-2 with the Cowboys following last Sunday’s loss to the Atlanta Falcons. He lost against the Arizona Cardinals in his only start in place of an injured Tony Romo last season.

The Cowboys blew three 14-point leads in a loss to the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday and face the New England Patriots, the New York Giants, the Seattle Seahawks, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before Romo hopefully returns from a fractured collarbone Nov. 22.

Vice president Stephen Jones said he has played the schedule game like everyone else, forecasting how many the Cowboys need to win to keep their playoff hopes alive until Romo comes back. He wouldn’t give a number, but he knows the Cowboys can’t go winless and doesn’t believe they will.

“Of course. If we go O-fer while Tony’s out, we’re probably out of it,” Jones said. “But I don’t think we feel like that’s going to happen. I think we can win football games with the team that we have. We’re going to get better. No, we’re not trying to hold on. We’re trying to win games.”

The Saints are winless, so it’s as good an opportunity to get a win as the Cowboys will have over next six games without Romo. The Cowboys believe they can win with Weeden, but he is on a short leash.

If Weeden doesn’t get it done, the Cowboys won’t hesitate to turn to the newly acquired Matt Cassel, who came over in a trade from Buffalo last week. Cassel was inactive against the Falcons, but should be up to speed enough on the offense to serve as the backup against the Saints.

“It’s different when you’re Tony Romo or Tom Brady or Peyton Manning,” Jones said. “Everybody knows it’s their team. I think Brandon, Cassel’s in here, if doesn’t play well then he knows there’s competition there. It gives us an option. We felt like getting a guy like Cassel, who has had success in the league, was a good fit for us.”

Cassel, 33, has more skins on the wall than Weeden. He is a former Pro Bowler with a 33-38 record in 71 career starts. Weeden, 31, is now 5-17 as a starter, including two losses with the Cowboys as a part of that losing streak.

Weeden said his focus is on beating the Saints and not his personal streak of futility.

“That’s not good. I was in Cleveland, those days are long gone. Seven of those were in Cleveland,” Weeden said. “I’ve learned a lot from them. And now I’m worrying about what I can do this week to get back on the right track.”

SERIES HISTORY: 28th regular-season meeting. Cowboys lead series, 16-11. New Orleans has won three of the last four, though the Cowboys won last year to snap a three-game losing streak. Dallas won 11 of the first 12 meetings in the series from 1967-1984 but have gone 5-10 since.

GAME PLAN

–The Cowboys will try to force the run against a Saints defense that ranks 26th in the league against the run. The offensive line has not been dominant this year and needs to play like the best line in the league. But the Cowboys will have to prove it can make plays down the field against a Saints defense that will crowd the line of scrimmage.

Defensively, they must stop the run but they also need to find a way to get to the quarterback and get off the field on third down. The Cowboys have just three sacks in three games, including two by inside linebackers on blitzes.


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