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Romo Enduring Peaks and Valleys for Dallas

Posted on October 06, 2011 by Chris Kent

Four games into the season, Tony Romo is playing like a pendulum. Good in one game, bad in another. Romo has even played good and bad in the same game, some ending in victory and others in defeat.

The results of this swing game have left the Dallas Cowboys in mediocrity. The Cowboys are 2-2 after the first quarter of the season. Romo has thrown for 1,273 yards on the young season. His seven touchdown passes have been offset by five costly interceptions.

Tony Romo ponders the situation in a recent home loss to Detroit in which Dallas surrendered a 24-point lead.

A closer look at Romo’s play suggests that Dallas could easily be 4-0 and in first place in the NFC East Division or 0-4 and in last place in the division. That is how much the fortunes of an NFL team can be altered by the play of its’ quarterback. This concept is magnified when you are the quarterback of the Cowboys, a five-time Super Bowl Champion which has an NFL record tying eight trips to the big game among its’ legacy.

Like other glamour positions in professional sports, Romo occupies a catbirds seat. Playing quarterback for Dallas comes with more expectations than that of quarterbacking a lot of other NFL teams. Romo follows a Cowboys’ quarterback roll call that reads Eddie LeBaron, the late Don Meredith, Craig Morton, Roger Staubach, Danny White, and Troy Aikman. Both Staubach and Aikman are in Dallas’ Ring of Honor and each are also in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Any such honors for Romo are not even close at this time. In his fifth full season as Dallas’ starter and ninth overall, Romo needs to focus on getting better and playing more consistently good in order for the Cowboys to become a great team. While he has led Dallas to their two wins this season while playing with a broken rib, staying healthy would also help. Romo has battled injury in three of the last four seasons dating back to 2008 when he missed three full games with a fractured right pinkie on his throwing hand. In 2010, Romo missed 10 games with a broken left clavicle.

Romo’s play in 2011 has sent the Cowboys on a roller coaster ride. There have been peaks with some of them being maintained for multiple quarters and even most of a game which have factored into wins. There was the adrenaline rush Romo felt of leading Dallas to the comeback in the fourth quarter and overtime in the win at San Francisco. Then, there was Romo’s big pass play to Dez Bryant that set up the game-winning field goal against Washington.

On the other side, mistakes have occurred where dark valleys have resulted. Games have turned on these and have left Dallas frustrated. There was a well-executed game plan that saw the Cowboys control the favored New York Jets through three quarters in New York in the season opener on Sept. 11 before three turnovers in the fourth quarter doomed Dallas. Then, there was the unexplained collapse against Detroit in which three Romo interceptions in the second half helped nullify a 24-point halftime lead.

Untimely mistakes like this interception by New York Jets all-pro cornerback Darrelle Revis in the late stages of the fourth quarter in the season opener have cost Romo and the Cowboys.

A closer look at each game shows the highs and lows of Romo’s play and the Cowboys’ season. Avoiding a turnover hear or there, and Dallas could easily be 4-0. On the other side, without Romo showing mental and physical toughness while playing hurt, the Cowboys could easily be 0-4.

In a 27-24 loss at the Jets in week one, Romo committed two costly turnovers

in the fourth quarter that helped New York overcome a 14-point deficit. Although it didn’t lead to any Jets’ points, a fumble by Romo at New York’s 2-yard line took away likely points for Dallas which could of sealed a victory. After the Jets returned a blocked punt for a touchdown to tie the game at 24, Romo was intercepted by New York all-pro cornerback Darrelle Revis on a pass intended for Bryant. That led to a 50-yard game-winning field goal by former Cowboys’ kicker Nick Folk.

Despite the mistakes in crunch time in the opener, Romo played well. He finished the game 23-of-36 for 342 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. Through three quarters of play he and Dallas played well and Romo had the Cowboys on the doorstep of victory. But the door did not get closed and the pendulum swung the wrong way after being influenced by Romo turnovers.

In week two, Dallas trailed San Francisco 24-14 in the fourth quarter when Romo re-entered the game with a broken rib. After tossing a 25-yard touchdown pass to Miles Austin to pull the Cowboys within three, Dallas held the 49ers scoreless. Romo then engineered a 10-play 44-yard drive in the final four minutes that ended with a game-tying 48-yard field goal by rookie kicker Dan Bailey as regulation time expired. The pendulum was now resting right in the middle as it was anyone’s game.

San Francisco won the coin toss and elected to receive the overtime kickoff.

Romo has dealt with pain this season such as the broken rib he suffered against San Francisco. Here, he is shown dealing with the adversity.

The Cowboys would force a punt and then Romo sealed the game. Romo connected with Jesse Holley in stride on a 77-yard catch-and-run over the middle that put Dallas in business at the 49ers’ two-yard line. That set up Bailey who converted a 19-yard field goal for the 27-24 win. Romo finished 20-of-33 for 345 yards, 2 touchdowns, and a 116.4 passer rating.

In the home opener Sept. 26 against arch rival Washington which came in 2-0, the Cowboys persevered throughout the game. Romo finished 22-of-36 for 255 yards and 1 interception. Held without a touchdown, Dallas resorted to six Bailey field goals in pulling out an 18-16 win. Although ailing with the rib injury, Romo made the key play late. Facing a third and 21 from its’ own 30-yard line with 2:20 left to play, Romo connected with Bryant on a 30-yard pass play on a middle post to set up Bailey’s winning kick. The pendulum now had a little positive stability for the first time all season following the Cowboys’ second straight win.

At 2-1 and tied for first place in the division, Dallas, although still slowed by injuries, had some momentum. They took that with them into week four as the 3-0 Detroit Lions came to town. Romo tossed three first half touchdown passes, two to Bryant, as the Cowboys built a 27-3 lead at the half. Further indication that the pendulum was staying on the positive end.

Even in defeat this season, Romo has played well. Here, Dez Bryant catches one of Romo's three touchdown passes against Detroit on Oct. 2 (Star-Telegram/Rodger Mallison).

Then the wheels came off. Three Romo interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns, did in Dallas in a 34-30 loss. The Cowboys’ meltdown marked the largest deficit ever overcome by a Dallas opponent. It also tied the mark for the largest blown lead by a home team in a regular season game in NFL history. Despite the collapse, Romo still finished 34-for-47 for 331 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions.

With Romo and the Cowboys making history in the wrong way against the Lions, the pendulum has swung back against them. With Dallas having a bye on Oct. 9, it is safe to say the pendulum should remain at rest. At the present time, that is probably the best news possible for the Cowboys.

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