There is good Tony Romo, and there is bad Tony Romo. You remember bad Tony, right? He’s the guy that checked out of a run play late in last Sunday’s epic loss to Green Bay and threw an interception that ultimately cost the Cowboys a victory. You may have heard about it.
On Sunday against the Washington Redskins, we saw the good Tony once again as he directed the 20th fourth-quarter comeback of his career, a comeback that saved the Cowboys’ season from complete implosion. On that drive, which began with 3:39 left and with the Cowboys starting at their own 13-yard line, Romo made two plays that we’ve grown used to seeing when he’s on his game — instinctive, natural and game-altering.
Question Tony Romo's decision-making as a quarterback but never his toughness.
First, there was the 51-yard pass to Terrance Williams on second-and-10 from the Dallas 28. Romo dropped back and had good protection, but he had no open receiver. He took advantage of the opening to his right and rolled out.
He caught Williams’ eye with a subtle gesture, one Williams took as “go upfield.” Williams did, and then he and Romo received a gift — Redskins cornerback Josh Wilson slipped on the slick FedEx turf. Williams was wide open when Romo’s pass made it to him, and only Williams’ strange sideways move to avoid Wilson kept him from getting further upfield.
The second play was more critical. In fact, it was the season. The Cowboys faced fourth-and-goal from the Redskins 10. The Cowboys needed a touchdown and extra point to win. Only a pass in the end zone was acceptable. Except Romo didn’t throw it in the end zone. He threw it to the 1-yard line and let DeMarco Murray do the rest.
The Redskins brought four down linemen and kept seven back in coverage. The play sent every Cowboys receiver into the end zone, with the exception of Murray, who moved into the right flat. The receivers occupied five of the Redskins’ seven back-line defenders. The other two were in Murray’s vicinity before Romo worked a little magic.
Romo once again had good protection but no open receiver in the end zone. He stepped up to his right and moved his eyes toward Murray. Instead of throwing, he pump-faked. That was enough to freeze linebacker Perry Riley, who was shadowing Murray. The other defender, a cornerback, was deep in the end zone. All Murray had to do after he caught the ball was turn, take a step and dive into the end zone for the touchdown.
Oh, and by the way, Romo did all of this with back pain suffered earlier in the fourth quarter that left him obviously hobbled. Question his decision-making but never his toughness.
This is when Cowboys fans love Tony Romo. It seems when Romo runs on instinct and chutzpah, he’s nearly unstoppable. But it’s when you juxtapose his heroics with his mistakes that you realize just how maddening he can be to Cowboys fans.
For the third straight year, the Cowboys will play a meaningful game on the season’s final week — a winner-take-all NFC East title game, this time against the Philadelphia Eagles. Romo will hear all week about his past failings in those first two games as a counterpoint to the heroics fresh on everyone’s minds.
“That was a big win,” Romo said after the game. “That’s as big a win as we’ve had. It was great to see the guys grind it out and make the plays that needed to be made.”
So will it be good Tony or bad Tony next Sunday against the Eagles? Either way, Romo guaranteed that every Cowboys fan will watch.