"We were in position to win the football game, and I made mistakes that cost us. That's why we lost." - Tony Romo, after the loss to the Jets.
After the Dallas Cowboys epic collapse in the fourth-quarter against the New York Jets last night, Tony Romo is center stage again. The spotlight is shining, and is revealing a disheartened, would-be hero. For three quarters of football, Romo's play was sterling, it was going to go down as one his finest efforts, given the circumstances surrounding this game.
The Cowboys were on the road, playing a very good Jets team, on the anniversary of 9/11 in New York. Romo hadn't played a real, live football game in close to a calendar year. The Cowboys we're breaking in a lot of new coaches, and they had very little offseason to do it in. The team as a whole was coming off a disastrous 6-10 2010 campaign, and they had a new offensive line that was untested. All of that pointed to a tough game for the Cowboys, a game most unbiased observers thought greatly favored the Jets.
Still, for three quarters, Romo guided his troops to the edge of victory. He did start the game with a case of "happy feet", probably due to that untested line and the long layoff from real football, but he quickly settled down. With a ground game that was not executing, Romo's arm was the vehicle that drove the Cowboys. Even though he was made uncomfortable in the pocket on many occasions, and got knocked around quite a bit - he persevered and prospered. For three quarters.
The fourth quarter. Oh, that fourth quarter. Here's where it gets tough. Romo had banked a lot of love from the fans through three quarters, you know that Romo was the main reason the Cowboys were winning. Yes, the defense was great (until injury really struck), but it was Romo, using Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Jason Witten, who carved up a Jets defense that is pretty darn good. He was destined to be feted by the masses after the game.
But he broke several cardinal rules down the stretch. No matter what, he can't turn the ball over at the goal line. Of course we love his desire to score a touchdown, but walking away with at least three was so huge at that moment in the game. Fall on the ground, throw it out of the endzone, do whatever, but you simply can't fumble that ball. There's no good excuse for that play. He blew it, and he admits it. The interception at the end was also inexplicable. Even if Dez ran the wrong route, Romo still threw the ball to where he was standing, where there just happened to be two other Jets standing. Again, a pass out-of-bounds would have been his best friend.
The fact is, Romo made two plays that absolutely turned this game in the Jets favor. Two plays he could have easily avoided. He let his aggressive instincts take over, when caution and reason would have served him better. Romo was a big part of why we would have won this game, he was a big part of why we lost. Even he will tell you the latter.
So the spotlight shines on Tony Romo, and we all judge the results. In this matter, I would suggest the following. The defense had some serious issues at the end of the game, and contributed to this loss. If we don't get some healthy cornerbacks, it will be a tough season. The punt block was so bad, it doesn't even bear describing. Suffice it to say that was a big part of the loss, too. And Jason Garrett should run the ball on 2nd and 2 at the goaline, so maybe we don't end up with the third-down play that Romo fumbles on.
But Tony Romo simply can't make the mistakes he made in the fourth quarter. There's no way around that.
Given all that, I want Romo under center every Sunday. I believe that the first three quarters are more of what we'll see from Romo in 2011 than the ugly fourth quarter. Frustration is high this morning, and rightly so, we saw defeat snatched from the jaws of victory. It was heartbreaking to watch. But for three quarters, this edition of the Cowboys looked formidable. That's encouraging. I trust Jason Garrett to teach this team how to win the fourth quarter. And I think that Romo already knows how.
He just needs to show it.
For another read on Romo, go here.