ARLINGTON, Texas -- As Tony Romo jogged on to the field with 2:39 to play Sunday everything was there for him.
He was a drive away from outdueling Peyton Manning. He was a drive away from pinning the Denver Broncos with their first loss. He was a drive away from potentially getting the Dallas Cowboys over whatever hump they have not been able to clear for so many years.
And then came the pass.
The Broncos drove to the Dallas 1-yard line and Matt Prater kicked a 28-yard field goal to beat the Cowboys 51-48 at AT&T Stadium.
“I wanted to put it another two feet out in front,” Romo said, “and I didn’t put it exactly where I needed to. It’s frustrating and disappointing.”
A career day ruined in one throw. Romo passed for a Cowboys’ record 506 yards. Only 11 quarterbacks in NFL history have ever thrown for more yards in a game than Romo’s 506 yards. He completed 25 of 36 passes. He tied the team record with five touchdown passes, equaling his career high set on Thanksgiving 2006 against Tampa Bay.
There was a different feeling around Romo then. That was just his fifth career start. He was the undrafted kid from Eastern Illinois who saved a season under Bill Parcells. He could do no wrong. It was Romo-mania and Romo-mentum.
And yet now, for as great as he was Sunday, there was a feeling of uneasiness when the Cowboys took the field after Denver tied the game.
The last time Romo was in such a spot came in the final regular-season game last year at Washington. Trailing 21-18 late in the fourth quarter, Romo had the Cowboys at their 29 with 3:06 to play. Everything was there for him.
Romo had lost. Again.
“You put so much into the week,” Romo said. “It’s funny you can get over the win pretty easy and get ready for the next one. But you lose and it just eats at you, just grinds away at you thinking ‘What could we have done? What should I have done?’ All of those things are part of playing professional sports and sports in general. So, yeah, it will take some times, but we’ll have to be ready to go next week.”
Unlike the Redskins’ loss, there is a next week for Romo and the Cowboys.
The task got taller now that they are 2-3, but the offensive showing at least gave a glimmer of hope. Hope, however, should not be at the top of the list after what happened on Sunday.
Owner and general manager Jerry Jones said Romo “had a game of the ages today.” Jason Garrett said Romo, “played an outstanding football game.” Jason Witten, who had seven catches for 121 yards and a touchdown, called it the best game Romo may have ever played, adding, “They’ve got a great quarterback across the way, maybe the best ever, but No. 9 played pretty well today.”
Don Meredith held the team record with 460 yards on Nov. 10, 1963 against the San Francisco 49ers. Meredith had three receives with more than 100 yards that day, just like Romo had with Witten, Dez Bryant (141 yards) and Terrance Williams (151 yards) on Sunday.
Romo’s five touchdown passes went to four different receivers with Bryant catching two and Witten, Williams and Cole Beasley catching one apiece.
He answered everything Manning did. He even out-did Manning.
“You had the sense they were scoring a lot,” Romo said. “You have to try and get rid of it a little bit and just look at the defense and take what they give you. That’s an answer you hear a lot but it’s true. Otherwise you’re going to get yourself in trouble.”
Romo said the throw to Escobar was not unlike the 25-yarder he completed to the rookie tight end in the first half for 25 yards.
“And the guy doesn’t get his hand on it and it’s down the middle,” Romo said. “It’s the same type of play, same type of look. The difference is I didn’t get the same on the ball that I threw earlier … That’s the difference sometimes.”
The difference, yes, but also the same and the Cowboys were stuck with another agonizing loss.
“In some ways we like to think we can play against those types of teams and hold our own,” Romo said, “but obviously we’ve got to come out on top at the end of it.”