Behind enemy lines: Cowboys Q&As

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and quarterback Tony Romo offered their thoughts on traveling to Baltimore to take on the Ravens this Sunday.

Head Coach Jason Garrett

  On what he has asked the team to do to get them to play at the same level every week: "Just that. Our team works very hard. We practice hard, guys are into it. They are focused. We just need to get the performance and the execution to carry to the game on Sunday on a consistent basis. That's something that we always preach to our team. I think there are probably 32 coaches around the league that are trying to convey that same message to their team in all three phases of their team. At times this year, we've played well, and other times we haven't played well enough. In order to beat the teams that we need to beat in this league, we have to be a more consistent football team in all areas."

  On how much CBs Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne have been a boost to the defense: "We just assessed our team after last season. We had been ahead in a few different games last year and weren't able to hold the lead. We felt like we just needed to get better on the back end. It's become such a passing league, and we just felt like it was important for us to allocate some resources to get those guys. We signed Brandon Carr in free agency. [He] was a very good player in Kansas City. He is a big, physical guy, and we felt like he could really contribute to our team as a corner for us. Similarly, when we got to the draft, we really thought Morris Claiborne was an outstanding player. We had an opportunity to move up from pick 14 to pick six and draft him. So, we feel like those guys really make us better in the secondary. They allow us to do some things on defense this year that we want to do. I think any defensive coach, and really any offensive coach, would tell you that if you have real good corners and real good cover guys on the back end, it gives you much more freedom to play what you want to play on defense."

  On going through the interview process with the Ravens when they were hiring a head coach in 2008: "It was a great opportunity. It really was. I enjoyed every part of it. There are so many great people in that organization, starting with [Ravens owner] Steve Bisciotti, all the administrative guys that I met and the different football people that I met. It's just a really, really impressive organization. They've done such a great job over the past [17] years or so. They really put a winning product out every year. It starts with the people, and I was really fortunate to be able to go through that process."

  On how close he was to accepting the head coaching position with the Ravens: "That's a long time ago, so I don't want to get into too many details. I know that I was very fortunate to go through that process. It's really, like I said, a remarkable organization. Their history of success has been outstanding. The people are really special. Just at that time, I just felt, and my wife felt, like it was the best thing for us to stay in Dallas. We certainly have no regrets, and I'm sure the Ravens don't have any regrets either. They've done a great job. Since that time, John Harbaugh has done a fantastic job with that team. They are one of the elite franchises in the league."

  On if he has pondered how things would have been different if he had been named the head coach of the Ravens: "One of the approaches that I've always taken in my life is you make decisions and you go forward. Like I said, I was really fortunate to be able to go through that process. But, we love it here in Dallas. We are trying to build a championship-type team here. We're fortunate to be in the situation that we're in and excited about what we can do as a football team. It will be a great challenge for our team this week going up to Baltimore playing the Ravens."

  On how well he knows Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and what his reputation is around the league: "I don't know him well, but I have had a couple occasions to spend some time with him, and I really, really like him. He has a fantastic reputation. He always did as an assistant coach in this league, and certainly he comes from a coaching family and a football family. He is just an outstanding person. Anytime I've had a chance to visit with him or talk to him about anything casually or more seriously, he has been such a great resource for me. We have so much respect for the job he has done up there in Baltimore."

  On if he stills sees the same LB Ray Lewis or if "Father Time" has caught up with him: "I see the same guy. I see a guy who is the emotional leader of that defense, and the emotional leader of that football team. They all look to him. I see a guy who makes a ton of plays once the play starts. He makes a lot of tackles, is around the football a lot. He is the same guy that we have been seeing here for the last [17] or so years."

  On if he has been able to pinpoint what has been troubling the offense: "I just think we need to be a more consistent offense. We need to be more efficient. In different games, different areas have kind of been the reason we haven't been able to be as productive as we want to be. We had some pre-snap penalties, and we had some negative runs. We had some turnovers. The biggest thing we need to do is we need to minimize those mistakes and start playing the way we're capable of playing. I think at different times we've done some good things in the running game and some good things in the passing game, but we just haven't been as consistent and efficient with our execution. We have to work very hard in practice to clean that stuff up and hopefully carry it to the ball game."

  On if is comfortable with how many times QB Tony Romo has passed or if he would have given RB DeMarco Murray some carries to take the pressure off: "We want to be a balanced attack. There is no question about that. That's when we're at our best. Probably, around the league, most coaches would tell you that. You want to be able to attack defenses different ways, and it starts with a balance between run and pass. In a few of the games we've played, we've been behind, and we've thrown the ball a lot, so the number gets distorted. We want to run the ball more efficiently and more effectively, and we want to have balance throughout the ball game between the run and the pass."

  On what defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has added to the defense and what commonality he sees between Rob and his brother, Jets head coach Rex Ryan: "Again, a great football family. Obviously, Buddy [Ryan] is one of the great coaches, ever, in this league, and both Rob and Rex are outstanding coaches – great coordinators. We're fortunate to have Rob here. He's a guy who knows football inside and out. He obviously grew up with it. He was a very good position coach and has been a very good coordinator in this league for a number of years, and the guys really respond to him. He brings a toughness. I think he brings a personality to our team, and like I said, the guys love playing for him. He allows us to be multiple on the defensive side of the ball, which we think is a positive thing. And again, the guys rally around and love to play for him."

  On what it would mean to get NT Jay Ratliff back in the lineup this week: "Well, we're hopeful that Jay is able to play this week. He's been out for the first four ball games and done a really good job working hard to get himself back into shape to play. He practiced some today, so we're hopeful, as the week goes on [that] he will be ready to play in this ball game. He's been an outstanding player for us – one of the best at his position in the league – and again, an emotional leader for us. The guys rally around him, but also a very productive guy once the ball is snapped."

  On whether he sees any differences in the Ravens' offense on tape between home and road games: "Not necessarily. They seem to have a similar style whether they are on the road or at home. For whatever reason, sometimes you play a little bit better at home. Some teams play a little better on the road, and sometimes that thing just goes in phases. They are an outstanding offense, we know that. They can throw the ball, they can run the ball. They have some marquee players. Joe Flacco is playing really, really well. Anytime you can hand it or throw it to Ray Rice, you are going to have your hands full as a defense. The offensive line is good. They have some weapons outside who they like to throw it to. Again, No. 27 [Rice] is awfully good when the ball is in his hands. [They have] a lot of weapons, a lot of stuff we have to contend with."

  QB Tony Romo

On what he has seen from LB Ray Lewis when watching tape from this year and if there is any difference in him as he gets older: "No, I see the same Ray Lewis. He understands the game almost like a quarterback does and where the strengths and weaknesses of not only the offense [are], but his own defense. He just has a great knack for getting himself into position and where he needs to be to help everybody. He looks real good on tape."

On if there was ever a time that he thought the Cowboys would lose head coach Jason Garrett to the Ravens back in 2008: "Well, I don't … Discussing that stuff during when he was going through all of that process during that time, then at the end of the day kind of just ends up being, ‘Is he coming back or wasn't he?' I was glad to see that he came back to us."

On what he is seeing from defenses from week to week – press coverage for receivers or different looks in terms of how they disguise coverages: "It's a little bit of both. You're getting a little bit of everything; there's not one thing that you're saying that everyone is trying to do against us a little bit. You know, one week a team wants to pressure, another week they're going to lay back, and another week a team wants to do what they do best. So, I don't know that there's anything specific that I can give you."

On how he feels about the run-to-pass ratio for their offense through the first four games: "Well, the run-pass ratio is just a stat that goes with whether you're winning or losing. If you're winning the football game, you're going to have a great run-to-pass ratio, and if you're losing the football game, you're always going to throw it more. I think when we've gotten behind we've had to throw it. But when you look in the first half and stuff, we've done a real good job of maintaining the balance. We just haven't run it as well as we've wanted to this year. I think we're working on some things to get that going a little bit."

On how important it is to get RB DeMarco Murray more involved in the offense: "Well, like I said, it's a byproduct of execution and just doing things that allow you to play with the lead. DeMarco is going to get a lot more touches when the game is close or when we have the lead. And I think we've just been put in a couple spots where we had to throw it, and that kind of skews the numbers a little bit."

On whether emulating what the Chiefs did last week with RB Jamaal Charles might be a similar blueprint for them to follow this weekend: "We'll see as the week goes on what we're going to do. But if I did know exactly what we're going to do at this point, I probably wouldn't tell you right now."

On what jumps out to him about the Ravens' secondary, particularly S Ed Reed: "They do a great job. They are very smart. They understand their leverage, where their help is. They disguise things very well. With Ed, it's almost the opposite. When you see Ed, what he's doing and where he's going and stuff, that's not the coverage he is playing. You almost just know that going in. He does a great job of disguising stuff. You just have to be prepared for those guys to do different things. It's a great challenge for us. It will be a great one."

  On how much of a comfort TE Jason Witten provides for him: "Jason has been great for a long time. We've got a few guys who have been playing at a high level for a long time – Jason and Miles [Austin] and guys who are younger that are coming up. I feel very comfortable with our guys."

  On where he would rank the challenge of playing at M&T Bank Stadium: "This will be my first time playing up there. I know it's loud. You can just tell when you hear from other people and watching the game. It's going to definitely create issues, and you just have to go back to technique and fundamentals and just do what your job is. That's the motto we have to take. It's the only way to go into an environment like that and have a chance. For us, we know it's a great challenge, and it's a great football team we're playing. We know it's not an easy place to go play well. So, we're doing all those steps to try to give ourselves a chance this week."

  On how beneficial it was to have the bye week following the game vs. Chicago or if he wanted to get right back on the field: "I always want to get back out there and play. It's more fun playing football every week. That's just me being an athlete, a competitor. I think you enjoy that side of it. It will be great to get back out there and go up to a tough place and play a game."

  On how he shakes off the interceptions: "Anybody who has played quarterback at the high level of the National Football League understands that [bad] games are going to happen. You try and avoid them all the time. It doesn't sit well with me when you have a game like that. You just have to go back to work and get better, improve and figure out what the team needs to do to win football games. That's how I approach it."

  On if he is being asked to do more within the offense, throwing a high number of passes in the first four games: "Like I said, if you're winning the football game, there is going to be less throwing. If you are losing and you're behind in games, you are going to have to put the ball up in the air. That just happens. That's a normal process that takes shape. So, once again, numbers can be skewed just based off the score of the football game."

  On what progress he has seen on and off the field from WR Dez Bryant: "He's doing a good job. He is working hard. He has come a long way in his three years. He is starting to understand the game better, and every week that goes by, he gets better and better."

  On if he offers Bryant guidance regarding off-the-field things: "Yeah, me and Dez talk all the time. He's in a position where everyone, being in the public eye, is going to know what's going on. It's just part of growing and maturing and becoming the guy that he is. I am proud of him. He is doing a good job as he continues to take steps in his life on and off the field."

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