- Todd Archer, ESPN Staff Writer
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A weekly analysis of the Cowboys’ quarterback play:
Rewind: Tony Romo had to throw just 24 passes, completing 17, in the Dallas Cowboys’ 31-7 win over the St. Louis Rams. When was the last time Romo threw so few passes in a game he started and finished? It was Oct. 23, 2011, against the Rams. The common denominator in those games was DeMarco Murray’s rushing. On that day in 2011, Murray ran for 253 yards. On Sunday, he had 175. The running game took the burden off Romo, but that does not mean he was simply along for the ride. Romo had three touchdown passes, and his 24-yard scores to Gavin Escobar and Dwayne Harris came on pinpoint throws. Romo was sacked only once and rarely pressured with the offensive line giving him time to get the ball down the field. Romo averaged 8.8 yards per attempt against the Rams, which was his highest in three games.
Fast-forward: San Diego has struggled to stop the pass, and you can’t expect the Cowboys to run the ball as well as they did last week. A week after Philadelphia’s Michael Vick threw for 428 yards, Tennessee’s Jake Locker had 299 yards against the Chargers' defense. No offense to the Titans, but they do not have the weapons to match the Cowboys, and the Chargers do not have a consistent enough pass rush to hurry Romo. Quarterbacks are completing 67.2 percent of their passes against San Diego, and Romo has shown improved accuracy this season.
Take care of the ball: Nothing hurts a road team more offensively than a turnover. It gets the crowd going. It gets the defense going. It causes doubt from within. In his past 17 road games, Romo has had turnovers (interceptions or fumbles) in 11 games. The Cowboys are 3-8 in those games, including 0-1 this season. In the six road games in which he has not turned it over, the Cowboys are 4-2. Romo has one interception on 115 pass attempts this season, and that came off a miscommunication with rookie receiver Terrance Williams. His fumble at Kansas City did not lead to any points for the Chiefs.
Prediction: Romo’s top two receiver targets are banged up. Miles Austin could miss the game with a hamstring or at least be limited. Dez Bryant is battling through back spasms. But Romo will have to make plays. And he will against a struggling pass defense. He has to stay away from mistakes. And he will. Look for Romo to have his first 300-yard game of the season even if Austin (hamstring) does not play or is limited and look for at least two touchdown passes.