IRVING, Texas – It's not any easier to digest, but 24 hours later, the Cowboys have a clearer idea of their missteps in Sunday's thrilling loss to the Broncos.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett spoke at length Monday afternoon about nearly every aspect of the 51-48 shootout loss. But just like the game itself, the lasting impression from the post-mortem was the Cowboys' last snap – Tony Romo's game-swinging interception at the hands of Denver linebacker Danny Trevathan.
"When you evaluate that, he probably should have come down and thrown the ball to the back," Garrett said.
DeMarco Murray sat open about two yards beyond the line of scrimmage on the fateful play – a second and 16 just before the two minute warning. Garrett said if Romo could have the throw back, he'd likely look for Murray to shorten the yardage for third down.
"It was second and I think 14 or 16 at the time, cut the distance in half, make it a manageable third down and then go from there," Garrett said. "You know, those plays happen in split seconds, and you saw something that he liked. He cut it loose. Their defender made a good play."
It was about the only mistake made by Romo en route to a Cowboys record 506-yard, five-touchdown performance that saw him complete 69 percent of his throws.
But it's not the first time a late mistake has marred an otherwise brilliant game from Romo – as has been discussed in the wake of the loss. In light of that, Garrett said it was important to evaluate the situation individually and avoid making generalizations.
"We evaluate the play. We watch the play on tape, and you go through what the thought process was and what the play was versus the coverage and what we saw," Garrett said. "That's what you do. And then you step back from that and you might evaluate it further when you're talking about what the situation is and what he was actually thinking in that particular situation."
Generalizations are going to be hard to avoid when it comes to a late-game turnover from Romo – one of the most polarizing figures in the NFL. With talk radio and television shows sure to be dissecting the play frame-by-frame, Garrett was asked how it would be possible for Romo to tune out the noise.
"You don't turn on the radio and you don't turn on the TV," he said. "It's as simple as that. You watch movies."
With that in mind the attention turns to the Cowboys' locker room – a quiet, un-crowded room to be in on a Monday, especially a Monday after a loss. As quiet as it might have been, though, it wasn't short on support for the oft-discussed quarterback.
"The radio, whoever, they're going to do what they're going to do. As long as we know who Romo is in this locker room, he don't care, and that's the only thing that matters," said receiver Dez Bryant. "He don't care what nobody else say, as long as he know that we got his back, that's the only thing that matters." [embedded_ad]
That's a point that hasn't deviated much across the Cowboys organization. From owner/general manager Jerry Jones on Sunday night, to Bryant on Monday afternoon and Garrett on Monday evening, the support for Romo has been unanimous.
"I don't think there's any question -- anybody who watched that football game believes that this guy is an outstanding player and he's been an outstanding player for us," Garrett said. "Certainly in our building and everybody on our football team and everybody in our organization believes a great deal in him.
Bryant is Romo's leading receiver on the season, with 423 yards and six touchdowns on 29 receptions. Six of those catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns came against Denver, as Bryant was one of three Dallas receivers with 100-plus yards – a fact he considered encouraging.
The word encouraging is probably underselling it, actually.
"I feel damn good about the way we played yesterday. I just feel like if we can continue to keep doing that, we can stack some wins up. We was explosive, we didn't back down like everybody expected us to."
But with yet another late-game mistake that led to a loss, Bryant was posed another tough question: who is Romo to you?
Once again, he didn't mince words.
"In my eyes Romo is a fighter," Bryant said. "I don't think no quarterback in the NFL could take as much criticism as he takes, and he still goes out there like he hasn't heard anything -- I know he heard it, but he don't let it get to him – and he goes out there and he performs the best way he possibly can. And we're going to forever back him for it."