EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Nearly a full year ago, I made the claim Tony Romo played one of the better games of his career in the season opener up here against the Jets. Sure there was the fumble and the late pick that led to the loss, but I thought he was masterful in how he handled the game, playing behind such as young offensive line in a hostile environment.
That opinion was never received well, mainly because Romo's fourth-quarter mistakes led to the overtime loss.
So this time, I think it'll be appreciated a little better.
This time, Tony Romo was even better. And this time, we can argue once again that he might have played his best game, at least in recent history.
The difference – other than the Cowboys hanging on for a 24-17 win over the Giants this year and leaving MetLife Stadium with a 1-0 record – is that Romo's big mistake occurred pretty early in the game. And thanks to a hustle play by Tyron Smith and a goal-line stand on defense, an interception led only led to a field goal.
After that play, with the Giants leading 3-0, Romo basically took over the game, and did so behind an offensive line that wasn't helping him all the time. In fact, the line was putting this team in big holes with penalty after penalty.
And every time, Romo dug them out of the ditch.
This was Tony Romo's best game.
The line struggled all night, not only with penalties but blocking the Giants' tenacious pass rush. Yet, Romo made enough things happen to keep the play alive.
Not only did they struggle, but when you lose your starting center on the opening series, and then play a guy who has been around for six whole days – and still don't miss a beat – that's amazing.
The key to being a great player in any sport is making the players around you look better.
Romo made that offensive line look better than it was.
Talk about making players better … what about Kevin Ogletree? We've seen this guy for three years. He's been an average receiver for the most part, only flashing some potential now and then.
Most of us didn't think he'd be on the team this year, but all along Romo praised him, saying his practices and preparation were much improved. More than anything, Romo showed nothing but a high level of confidence in Ogletree.
And so we shouldn't be that surprised that Romo had no fear in going his way. In fact, we talked a lot about the chemistry Romo had with Laurent Robinson last year in a short time. But let's look at the two touchdowns Ogletree caught Wednesday night. (Man that sounds weird, and I'm referring to the Wednesday night part, and not Ogletree catching touchdowns – but neither had happened before in the NFL modern era).
But back to the touchdowns, Ogletree and Romo looked like a couple of playground legends. On the first, Romo kept the play alive and Ogletree slipped behind the defense like a savvy veteran. Romo lofted the pass perfectly in the back of the end zone for the first touchdown of the game and season.
Before that score from Ogletree could sink in, he had a second under his belt. And that one was similar in that Romo kept moving with his feet, scrambled to the right and found Ogletree, who snuck past everyone and caught yet another easy touchdown. That one put the Giants in a big hole down 14-3 and right then it was clear the Cowboys had control of this game.
Better yet, Romo was in control.
He was masterful in the fourth quarter, too. With the Cowboys leading 17-10 and trying for another knockout score, he stayed calm although the offensive line kept moving them back with penalties.
I couldn't help but think back to last year's opener against the Jets. In that game, the Cowboys led by a touchdown, 24-17, and were driving to go up two scores. That's when Romo fumbled, and the Jets took over and eventually won the game late.
This time around, although the wheels were coming off with the penalties, Romo kept it on the highway.
And on a first-and-30, which is every quarterback's favorite down-and-distance, he let one of his receivers make the play. Romo noticed the way the Giants changed up their defense. Cornerback Justin Tryon got turned around so bad and never knew the ball was coming his way. That's why Miles Austin was able to snag it in midair and practically walk into the end zone for a game-clinching score.
Of course, the Cowboys never do things easy. The defense gave up a score and you knew the Cowboys would have to get another first down to win it.
While they tried to use DeMarco Murray to grind out the clock, another holding penalty put the ball back in Romo's hands to seal this win.
So what does he do? Goes back to Ogletree, of course. He fires a slant to the left side for 13 yards, and that was it. Game, Set, Match! And it was Advantage Romo all night.
Sure, he wasn't perfect. He had a poorly-thrown pick early in the game. But he atoned for that, and then some.
You can debate with me if that was or wasn't one of Romo's best games. But you can't debate that he not only was the best quarterback on the field for this night, but he's the reason the Cowboys knocked off the defending champs in their own house.