IRVING, Texas (AP) — Brandon Weeden has completed 10 passes to wide receivers in two starts for the Dallas Cowboys.
Even when he had All-Pro Dez Bryant last year against Arizona, he had trouble getting him the ball, with 10 targets and just two completions in a loss.
After Weeden couldn't answer an Atlanta rally with any success down the field in a 39-28 loss Sunday, the natural question was whether the Cowboys trusted their backup enough with Tony Romo sidelined at least six more games with a broken left collarbone.
"Yes I do," owner and general manager Jerry Jones said after the end of a six-game winning streak in the regular season for the defending NFC East champion. "In general, I bet when we look at it, he stayed within himself. He's probably capable of getting it downfield, too, if they ask him to. I'm not worried. We just have a lot of work to do to stay in the hunt."
After a fast start fueled by the running game, Weeden's first bad decision was an interception that turned the game in the Falcons' favor in the second quarter, before the Dallas defense quit making stops.
With a nine-game losing streak that's tops among current starters and more interceptions (29) than touchdowns (27) for his career, Weeden will have to listen to chatter about whether the recently acquired Matt Cassel is a better fit to lead the Cowboys until Romo returns.
Dallas (2-1) goes to winless New Orleans this weekend before a visit from Tom Brady and New England. The Patriots went 11-5 in 2008 with Cassel filling in after Brady injured a knee in the opener, although they missed the playoffs.
Weeden and coach Jason Garrett said Atlanta's coverage schemes dictated the underneath throws. Cole Beasley was the only receiver to catch a pass — he had four for 49 yards — and Terrance Williams was targeted twice without a reception. Those were the only six throws to receivers.
"Not many people make a lot of big plays. That's the style of defense," Garrett said Monday. "There were some opportunities to throw the ball outside to the outside receivers that we didn't take full advantage of. To say we should've thrown it down the field more, I don't know that's accurate."
The early running success disappeared with the Falcons stacking the line of scrimmage, the same way the Cardinals did last season while ending NFL rushing champion DeMarco Murray's record streak of eight straight 100-yard games to start a season.
In both cases, Weeden couldn't win with his arm.
"The quarterbacks are going to try to throw it to the open guy. Take whatever they give us," said Weeden, who was 22 of 26 for 232 yards. "Just because we haven't thrown the ball down the field doesn't mean we are going to throw it down the field in the next three plays. That is just not logical football."
Cassel came in a trade with Buffalo early last week and was inactive against the Falcons. Kellen Moore, who hasn't played in a regular-season game, was the backup. Garrett wouldn't say whether Cassel will be ready this week.
"He can speak the language," Garrett said. "I think he's getting more and more comfortable saying it. He's run a lot of these plays. He knows these concepts. As much as anything else, it's learning the terminology and learning the nuances of the system."
Besides the interception, the other throw Weeden wanted back was a high toss to an open Witten after the Falcons had cut the last of three 14-point deficits to 28-25 in the third quarter. The Cowboys punted one play later and didn't get another first down until Atlanta was up 11 late in the fourth quarter.
"I really like what I saw out there today as far as how he handled himself," Jones said. "He wasn't throwing the ball but 15-20 yards, but I thought he made some really good decisions. I think we've got something to work with here."
NOTES: The Cowboys waived DT Davon Coleman. Dallas is a week away from the end of four-game suspensions for LB Rolando McClain (substance abuse) and DE Greg Hardy (domestic violence).
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