PHILADELPHIA – For 14 years and 155 career games, Tony Romo's approach hasn't changed: how you practice is how you play.
Never mind that Sunday marked a full 400 days since his last regular-season game appearance. Romo didn't treat his backup cameo against the Philadelphia Eagles any different.
"I feel like I've been practicing well, and I just wanted to prove to myself and prove to the coaches and teammates that I can be the same guy," he said.
That much was clear in just six snaps.
Entering the game in relief of starter Dak Prescott, who played only two scheduled series in what amounted to a preseason-style quarterback rotation, Romo calmly drove the offense 81 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter of the Cowboys' 27-13 regular-season finale loss at Lincoln Financial Field.
He completed three of four passes for 29 yards, twice for first downs. He threw deep incomplete twice – first to Terrance Williams on the opening play of the drive, then to Dez Bryant at the Eagles' 3-yard line, drawing a pass interference penalty.
One play later, he froze the defense with a quick fake and found Williams in the end zone for the score and a 10-3 lead.
No. 3 quarterback Mark Sanchez directed the offense for the rest of the game, but head coach Jason Garrett saw exactly what he wanted from his primary backup who happens to be the team's former 10-year starter.
"We just felt like that was the right amount of time for him," Garrett said. "He looked comfortable out there handling the mechanics of the game. He hasn't played in a little while. It sounds simple, but getting a call from the sidelines, handling the mechanics of the line of scrimmage, we just wanted to see him do that. He did a good job with that and obviously executed the plays very well."
Romo hadn't taken a regular-season snap since Thanksgiving Day 2015, when he broke his collarbone for a second time last season.
He entered this year's training camp healthy, but a back fracture suffered Aug. 25 at Seattle in preseason opened the door for Prescott, a fourth-round pick in April, to permanently seize the starting job.
His injury healed, Romo had been active as Prescott's backup since Nov. 20 against Baltimore. With the Cowboys' No. 1 playoff seed secure, Sunday's regular-season finale presented an opportunity to rest starters and give Romo his first 2016 snaps.
"I've played the game a long time," Romo said. "I know how to play the game, so coming here today was similar to all of the other times. You want to treat it that way. It helps you play the game right. You just get yourself ready to play when they call on you."
Prior to Sunday, Romo had spoken to the media about his new backup role only once: a prepared statement in which he pledged to support Prescott as the starter.
When the Cowboys play next in the NFC divisional round, Romo once again will be on the sideline in the No. 2 spot. But Sunday's series showed the 36-year-old can capably lead the offense if ever called upon again.
"It's awesome to see anybody play well, especially him, what he's been through this year," wide receiver Cole Beasley said. "I know it's some tough things that he had to go through. We didn't expect any different. He's the type of guy and he's a competitor and he just went in and did what he always does."