Defending Tony Romo (And Jason Garrett, A Little) After The Cowboys @ Cardinals Game

It is not as dark as you may think.

The anger and disappointment are understandable. The Dallas Cowboys had a great opportunity to all but lock up the NFC East against the Arizona Cardinals, and came up short. A lot of things went wrong. But the big focus is on the end of regulation time, when a clocked ball and a mystifying timeout led to a missed field goal, after one down the middle was not counted due to that strange call by the head coach.

The knee jerk reaction of many in the threads since the game have been to heap blame on the heads of Tony Romo for not trying to get the ball closer with two time outs after getting the ball to the Arizona 31 and on Jason Garrett for that timeout that inadvertently seemed to have the same effect as a timeout by the other team to ice Dan Bailey.

But that is not the way it was seen by everyone. In particular, Colin Cowherd on ESPN radio had a different take, and both ESPN's Trent Dilfer and Fox's Brian Billick agreed with him. I thought their analysis was good enough to try and share some of it with you.

What I heard them say after the jump.

I don't get to listen to Cowherd's show regularly, but I happened to be driving to and from an appointment and caught a good bit of his discussions about what happened. He was very strongly defending Tony Romo, and he also felt that Jason Garrett was taking too much heat over the end of the game.

First off, he put it very simply when he described Tony's play in the fourth quarter: "He was brilliant." He felt that Tony was doing all he could while he was basically being mugged by the Cardinals pass rush. Remember that he was sacked five times and hit five more times, and yet he still got the team in position to attempt a game winning field goal with time running out. There were many problems during the game, but Tony Romo was not one of them. He made throws that Cowherd feels could only have been made by a few quarterbacks in the league, and he named them: Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. That is pretty elite company.

Further, trying to get some more yards after getting to the 31 is not necessarily a good idea. He brought up the game the previous week between the San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos. The game also went into overtime, and after both teams had failed to score on their opening drive (and a second drive by Denver), the Chargers got the ball to the Denver 31. They tried to run the ball again on third down to get a little closer - and Von Miller tackled Mike Tolbert for a four yard loss. The ensuing field goal attempt missed, Denver got the ball back, and Tim Tebow drove a few more people insane by winning another game.

Brian Billick and Trent Dilfer both made the point about that last timeout that both Joe DeCamillis and Chris Bonoil were yelling at Jason Garrett to make the call. Billick added that Garrett is both the head coach and the offensive coordinator, which means he has two sets of responsibilities to juggle. On special teams, he has to rely on his assistants to help him. You could see that he was hesitant about the call, making the most uncertain signal to the referee I have ever seen in forty plus years of watching games. It was obvious his assistants felt there was something wrong and that Bailey would have a better chance with a timeout to get the team reset. They appear to have been incorrect about that, but they must have had some reason. Jason Garrett can more legitimately be blamed for his conservative play calling throughout the game, but the timeout fiasco at the end is not the big thing. After all, Dan Bailey missed the kick he had just made. And the team only managed 13 points.

The loss was due to other things. The offensive line had a terrible performance, the running game was not working, the defense made some key errors. There were also some things that went very well. Mat McBriar took Patrick Peterson completely out of the punt return game. Dallas got five sacks of its own. And the field was bad, with several slips hurting both teams, although Dallas seemed to come out on the short end of that.

And at the end of it all, Dallas still has a one game lead in the NFC East (thank you, Green Bay Packers). They have four games, two of them against the Giants, to determine how this season ends. And Miles Austin is expected back this week.

I wish the team had won the game. It probably should have, but, as always seems to happen with quarterbacks who shouldn't do so, Kevin Kolb had a very good day against the Cowboys. There are a lot of things to focus on. But Jason Garrett is still finding his way and is not going to be perfect under any conditions. And Tony Romo got his team in a position to win and was apparently following the strategy of his coach. So don't go throwing them under the bus.

Pull for them to beat the Giants Sunday night.

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