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Eatman: Romo's Rollercoaster Ride Soars High In Clutch

Posted Dec 22, 2013


LANDOVER, Md. – What goes up, must come down, right? And if it goes down, it usually comes back up.

So of course, Tony Romo is sitting there with the ball in his hands, with a chance to drive his team down the field for the winning score. Just seven days earlier, it’s the same situation and we all know what happened against the Packers.

But in this season of incredible mediocrity, your quarterback and your team find a way.

If we’re going to rip him for the gunslinger-style that got him in trouble against Green Bay, then show him the praise for this wild one.

The Cowboys are still alive because Romo and the offense simply wouldn’t roll over. With every wheel on the bus wobbling to the end, it looked as bleak as a game – and season – could look when the Cowboys trailed 24-13 with just over eight minutes left.

It was about to happen. The Cowboys were staring a three-game losing streak in the face. They were about to fall to a three-win Redskins team with a backup quarterback making his third career start.

So what happened? Well, Romo led his team to a win. Simple as that.

The quarterback, who was blamed for losing a game the Cowboys had no business losing last week, engineered two drives to give Dallas a win it probably had no business winning.

That’s how this league works. And frankly, that’s how this quarterback works. And frankly, that’s how this franchise has worked, really for the last three years, although you could argue that’s closer to about 16 years of back-and-forth football.

Last week, I said Romo had to make smarter decisions when the game was on the line. Yeah, he saw favorable coverage out there and went for it. He knew he couldn’t give the ball back or Green Bay would score. He was right about both.

But this week, this is when Romo is truly at his best. Say what you want, but the guy is a gunslinger at heart. When the play is breaking down and a blitzing defender is rushing in his face, that’s when Romo starts doing … Romo things.

His touchdown pass to Dez Bryant in the second quarter was vintage Tony. The Redskins sent more players than the Cowboys could block, leaving one guy free. One guy is typically OK for Romo, who made a quick move to his right to buy some time before using his R2-button spin move to buy even more time. And then he fired a perfect pass to Bryant for the score. Most of the quarterbacks in the league can make the throw. Only a handful of players can make that move, and in my opinion, not all of those can make the move and the throw.

Romo is your home run hitter who strikes out a lot, too. Some things you just have to live with. And you especially have to live with it when he’s the best thing you’ve got. I’ve said this a million times and it calls for it once again: Romo and the passing game is the best thing the Cowboys do.

Now, the running game is starting to close the gap in that area with the way DeMarco Murray is playing these days. But to me, when it comes to running the ball, passing the ball, stopping the run, stopping the pass and playing special teams, passing the ball is still the biggest strength of this team. And with that, it means Romo is the team’s most valuable player.

That’s probably the case with most quarterbacks, but definitely with this team.

Look at some of the playoff teams and/or contenders around the league. Teams like Kansas City, Seattle, San Francisco, Cincinnati and fringe teams like the Eagles, Bears and Dolphins and probably the Ravens – you can say their best player is not the quarterback.

That’s why it’s always funny to me when someone will say “put that game on Romo.” Of course you do. He’s the guy who is supposed to go out and win it.

So when they lose, it’s usually because of something he did late in the game. And when they win, it’s something he did late in the game.

And against the Redskins with the final two drives, Romo was at his best.

Just like this team in general, Romo seems to want to do it the hard way. A third-and-4 play where it appeared he had plenty of room to run for the first, Romo instead fired it in to Terrance Williams on the sideline for a tougher grab. He also made a great play to get out of the rush to find Miles Austin for a key third-down connection. He did leave a touchdown on the field later in that drive when he overthrew Dez in the end zone.

But on the final drive, when the Cowboys defense made a huge stop, you just had that feeling he was going to do it.

Then again, I had that same feeling last week against the Packers after they got down.

Say what you want about the way Romo closes games. But in terms of getting them in a position to win, he usually does that. He’s good at the hurry-up offense and even the four-minute offense, which is basically what this final drive was.

I like how he went back to Williams on second down after he failed to haul in the first-down throw. And then, the big play down the field when he bought some time and found a streaking Williams who had gotten deep. Once again, the pass could’ve been better but that’s one of those things where an overthrow gives you absolutely nothing. At least make it catchable and then they can figure out the rest – which is what happened.

And, of course, only the Cowboys turn down second-and-goal from the 1 and say, “nah we’ll take it back here from the 10 please.”

Always making it harder on themselves. Then again, that big loss on third down actually burned about 25 seconds off the clock and moved it back for a more manageable pass, which once again is what this team does best.

Romo had time, he found Murray who ducked into the end zone for a score on a play that was eerily similar to the 2010 finish at FedExField when the Cowboys were again down six for the final play and Romo hit Roy Williams in that same end zone for an apparent touchdown, only to have it called back for a holding penalty on Alex Barron.

This time the offensive line held up strong and Romo hit Murray. The Cowboys get the win and their season has been saved for the moment.

Last week, his heroic attempt came up short. This week, he walks off a winner and his team stays alive.

This is who he is. You just can’t have it both ways. The Packers had to deal with Brett Favre the same way. For all the good, there’s always some bad. And when the bad starts to pile up, then there’s usually a heavy dose of the good.

And Romo delivered the goods Sunday when his team needed him the most. 

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