Can Cowboys ‘Win Ugly'?

IRVING, Tex. - The bottom line in any sport is winning. Some teams employ an aesthetically pleasing style that keeps fans riveted, while others rely on "ugly" schemes that might lull many to sleep.

But as long as the end result is a victory, each can be effective.

The Dallas offense played ugly in Sunday's loss at Denver, but fell short on the winning part. That, according to wide receiver Patrick Crayton, has to change. Crayton acknowledged that he'd like to see the ball in the air more — specifically in headed his direction — but said that regardless of the method, the offense must make more plays. Punter Mat McBriar, Crayton said, is being used far too much.

"What receiver wouldn't want more balls thrown his way? If they're called, they're called; if they're not, they're not," Crayton said. "As long as we move the ball up and down the field, we're fine. Our punter kicked the ball six times (Sunday) — that's four times too many, in my book. I think Mat should kick the ball — he should punt — 36-40 times a year … period. That's two times a game, two-and-a-half times a game. If he kicks more than that, we're not doing our job as an offense."

Crayton said he realized that when former Dallas wide receiver Terrell Owens was cut over the offseason, the remaining wide receivers would come under intense scrutiny. Through four games, he said, the receivers have not lived up to his expectations. Tight end Jason Witten leads the team with 23 receptions, followed by running back Tashard Choice's 12. Crayton and fellow wideout Roy Williams are tied for third with 11 catches apiece.

"It's a very big concern," he said. "We're paid to get in there and catch balls and block and help this team move the ball up and down the field. We've just got to be involved more, whatever it takes."

Crayton said the receivers' struggles mirror those of the offense on the whole so far.

"We're not executing, obviously," he said. "We had 74 yards rushing (Sunday). We didn't have a receiving touchdown. We scored 10 points in the first quarter and no more. Ten points? With this type of offense? That's just not going to cut it. Our defense played their ass off, and to give us that many opportunities … it's like, they forced their punter to punt six times, but ours was just the same, so it cancelled it out.

"If we're only putting up 10 points, and we're not moving the ball. Regardless of the penalties — the referees called 17 of them (Sunday) … that's fine and dandy. They had 10 to our seven. But the thing is, we've got to eliminate our penalties on our side of the ball. Pre-snap penalties — those are the ones we definitely can eliminate. But sometimes, you're playing a game, you get caught up in the heat of the moment and some things are going to happen. They're going to call some holding penalties that may not be holding penalties, and so on and so on. But it's just our job right now to go in and try to get back in the winning column."

With the Dallas passing game not yet clicking at the level he expects, Crayton said that in order to increase the all-important total in the win column, the Cowboys must begin "winning ugly."

"How do you win ugly? Grind it out in the fourth quarter when it comes down to it," he said. "If we, as receivers, don't get involved in the passing game, that's fine — we'll go block. We've got to grind it out and go win those games. Our defense kept us in it the whole game, and … if we're not doing our part, we're letting them down."

While Crayton, like all receivers, admits he'd like to see the ball thrown his way, he said that it's time for the offense to rely even more heavily on its stable of gifted running backs.

"Our defense has earned it, and we've got to do it as an offense," he said. "We've got five freaks of nature up front (on the offensive line) that are calling for us to run the ball. You would think you would listen to those guys. We're trying to grind it out and get an ugly victory, because we're on the road against a 3-0 football team and the No. 1-ranked defense, and we blew 'em out of the water to start the game off, so don't deviate away from that — let's go ahead and keep grinding and beating them up.

"We've got to grind it out. We have three backs. Even though we didn't have Felix (Jones) this week, we had Marion (Barber) and Tashard (Choice), and last time I checked, those guys can run the ball between the tackles. We've just got to grind the ball out and let's go play ball."

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