Brutal. Just brutal. It's the only word that comes to mind to describe the Cowboys epic collapse against the Giants on Sunday night. If there was an award for finding the most creative ways to lose a football game, the Dallas Cowboys of 2011 would be my hands-down winner.
Sitting on a 12-point lead with 5:41 left in the game, Dallas would come completely unglued. It's the type of game that shakes your faith in this organization, it can make you question your fandom. Of course, a few days from now we'll be back to hope, hope that somehow the Cowboys can salvage a season, hope that somehow these Cowboys will make us forget this two-week disaster. That's what time does, but at the moment, it's hard not to give in to your worst fears.
For 55 minutes, Jason Garrett had done a wonderful job of managing his team through an onslaught of injuries. Key players were dropping left and right, still Dallas persevered. When Dez Bryant crossed the goal line to put Dallas up 34-22, even the most cynical Cowboys fan had to believe. Dallas was on the doorstep of the playoffs, they were on Momentum Road, they were the team we were all hoping for. All that undone in the blink of an eye, undone by Eli Manning, the Giants offense, Jason Pierre-Paul - and one very costly incomplete pass.
Previous to this game, the Eli Manning vs. Tony Romo debate raged. That will probably continue, but one night encapsulated the frustration with the Cowboys quarterback. Get this straight first, Romo was not to blame for the loss. His offense put up 34 points, that should be a win in any week. He also led Dallas back into field goal position to tie the game, only to be thwarted by another "ice the kicker" timeout, and then a blocked field goal. He also had nothing to do with the defense collapsing on the final two Giants drives. Except for one thing, the Giants final drive would haven't happened if Romo could have completed a short pass to a wide-open Miles Austin that likely would have scored a touchdown.
That is where the frustration with Romo boils over. Like in the Jets game and the Lions game, Romo fills up the stat sheet with glowing numbers. Everything looks perfect, except making the game-winning plays. In those previous games, it was the turnovers. In this game, it was the inability to drive a stake through the heart of the Giants. Everything was perfect; he read the defense, he knew that he had Miles one-on-one with press coverage, he knew he was set for the big play. It all happened like you draw it up in the playbook. Only Romo couldn't make the simple completion.
I love Tony Romo as our quarterback. As previously noted, you put up 34 points and have stats like he did, then he's done his job. The blame here should fall on the defense, on Rob Ryan, on a special-teams unit that blew it for the second straight week. That's where my anger is placed, that is where the true collapse happened.
But I can't help feeling that through all of that, one simple pass was all Romo needed to seal the deal. On the other side of the ball, in the clutch moments, Eli Manning shredded the Cowboys defense. He marched his team down the field twice for touchdowns. Meanwhile, all Romo needed was an easy completion to a wide open receiver.
It might not be fair, but that play is exactly the kind of play Romo needs to make in order to shoot down his reputation of "stats-filler but mistake-prone in the clutch." As much as I hate it, as much as we all hate it, until the Cowboys do something great with Romo at the helm, it will never go away.
Our faith is shaken, our hopes are hanging by a thread - make us believe again Tony Romo. Do everything you've been doing, only next time when your foot is on an opponent's throat, finish the job.