Tony Romo has become known for two things — big numbers and big mistakes. Both were on display Sunday against the Denver Broncos.
Romo’s numbers were dizzying — a career-high 506 passing yards and five touchdown passes. For 57 minutes, Romo played flawless football and traded punches with the king of crazy good stats, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. In fact, all in all, you could argue Romo was the better quarterback for 57 minutes. You might not win the argument, but you could make a case.
But a year from now you won’t remember that. A year from now you won’t remember that Manning shredded the Cowboys defense and that it had as much to do with Sunday’s out-of-nowhere shootout as the performances of Romo and Manning.
You’ll only remember the interception.
The Cowboys had the chance, tied 48-48, to win the game. Sitting at their own 14, they had a long way to go. But they only needed a field goal. They only needed a few plays to get up the field and get into range for kicker Dan Bailey. They just needed Romo to be flawless a few more plays.
For 57 minutes, Tony Romo played flawless football. But in the last three minutes, Peyton Manning walked away with the win.
It wasn’t to be. Yes, Romo was under duress. Yes, he had very little room to step up in the pocket. But he threw a pass to a practically-covered Gavin Escobar and linebacker Danny Trevathan picked it off.
A few minutes later, the Broncos’ Matt Prater kicked a field goal and it was all over.
Romo had to spent another post-game press conference talking about how another win got away, how another one of his mistakes put an end to a potential victory.
“Those plays happen pretty quick,” Romo said afterward. “In hindsight, I’d rather do anything than what we did there.”
Romo told reporters that the Cowboys had noticed that the Broncos were vulnerable to seam routes in the two-minute offense. That’s what Dallas was going for. But Romo said that, due to not being able to step up properly, he wasn’t able to get the football in front of Escobar.
Once the interception happened, the reaction on social media was instantaneous, and it can be encapsulated in one phrase: same old Romo.
For the Romo haters, Sunday was more ammunition to the argument that Romo makes big mistakes in big moments. And he has on several occasions and in games that could have put the Cowboys in the postseason.
For the Romo apologists, they’ll point to the fact that the defense gave up more than 400 yards passing for the second straight game, along with the 51 points. He can’t do it himself, they’ll say.
And they’re both right.
Football games are never lost by one play or one player. There are a litany of moments in which a game can turn. You saw that on Sunday. There were a number of plays that could have defined that game.
But in the NFL, it’s all about the quarterback. It always has been and it always will be. Those that play the position accept that fact and realize that moments like Sunday aren’t defined by statistics, but by the final result.
“It’s just about winning and losing, and as a quarterback you know that,” Romo said.
When you watch Romo play a game like he did on Sunday, you realize that there isn’t much that separates him from a guy like Manning. Or Drew Brees. Or Tom Brady. Or Aaron Rodgers.
But that one thing that separates them is like a chasm in the NFL. In big moments, do you make the big plays, avoid the big mistakes and lift your team to victory?
Manning, Brees, Brady and Rodgers do it. That’s why they have Super Bowl rings. Romo hasn’t done it nearly enough. That’s why to many he’s “same old Romo.”
Jerry Jones, the Cowboys’ owner and general manager, said that Sunday was the best Romo had ever played. I happen to agree with him.
And it came in a loss. Perhaps that defines Romo’s career to date more than anything else.