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Monday, September 19, 2011
Breakfast links: Romo redeemed?

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

I had to check this a few times after I saw it, but it turns out Sunday's overtime victory was the 10th fourth-quarter comeback of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo's career. Based on everything I heard and read about Romo a week ago after he gave away that Jets game, I was pretty sure he'd never completed a fourth-quarter pass.

Oh, but the tune is different now that Romo came out of the locker room with a broken rib and went an unbelievable 12-for-15 for 201 yards in the fourth quarter and overtime to lead the Cowboys to victory over the 49ers. Now, it's about Tony the tough guy, and about the burnishing of a legacy that needed some serious shining up after last week.

For some reason, when it comes to perceptions of Romo, everything has to be an extreme. He's either incredibly good or incredibly useless, sometimes within the course of the same game. The fact, which is backed up by the numbers, is that he's an outstanding quarterback who hasn't yet delivered a championship and whose biggest flops have come under some very bright spotlights. A supremely accurate passer who's thrown a couple of dumb interceptions at bad times and once fumbled a critical field goal snap in a playoff game.

Romo is unduly harangued for his mistakes, so it probably makes sense that those who do that haranguing would also gush over his triumphs. He was incredible Sunday. He was also incredible for the first three quarters of last Sunday's game. The difference here is that they won this one. If they lose to the Redskins next Monday night at home, I'm guessing the grittiness of this performance will fade from memory amid renewed cries that the guy's a bum. It'd be nice if everybody could relax, but that's not the time in which we live. Romo plays under intense scrutiny, and he will until he delivers that championship. Meantime, life's a roller coaster for Romo and the Cowboys, and Sunday was one of the highs.

You know what never gets too high or too low? What always keeps things in the proper perspective? Yeah, that's right. The links.

More Cowboys

I'm going to say this game was a lot bigger for Dan Bailey than it was for Tony Romo, who already knew he could play in the NFL. After missing that 21-yarder early in the game, Bailey drilled the game-tying kick from 48 and the winning chip-shot in overtime. Anything that helps the Cowboys' confidence in their kicking game has to be a welcome relief at Valley Ranch.

The Cowboys' defense locked things down in the second half, writes Carlos Mendez, whose notebook also includes injury updates on Miles Austin, Felix Jones and Phil Costa. Yikes, the Cowboys have a lot of injuries.

New York Giants

As former Giants receiver Steve Smith becomes more and more a part of the offensive game plan for the Eagles, the Giants continue to search for his replacement as their reliable slot receiver, Ian Begley writes. It looks as though Brandon Stokley, signed just last week, will get a chance to show what he can do in that role tonight against the Rams.

Mike Garafolo has a look at Giants defensive end Dave Tollefson, who's been getting more playing time lately thanks to injuries to Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora and whose nickname, teammate Chris Canty says, is "White Chocolate." These guys spend a lot of time together, is all I have to say.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles are deep at quarterback, as they believe it's wise to be in today's NFL, and so they may have a choice of qualified replacements next week if Michael Vick is out with a concussion. Mike Kafka filled in Sunday night, and Vince Young, the nominal backup, continues to work his way back from a hamstring injury.

Philadelphia is still continuing to build and work on its new defense, which was outstanding for much of the game but gave up too many costly big plays when it counted. The Eagles believe things will get smoother and better on defense as the season goes along. Atlanta was a very tough test, and in a couple of crucial spots, they flunked it.

And last but certainly not least, your first-place ...

Washington Redskins

More important than the two early interceptions he threw was Rex Grossman's ability to recover from them and still lead the Redskins to victory in the clutch, writes Rich Campbell. And he's right, of course. Everybody throws interceptions, and Grossman is one of those guys with whom you seem to sit around waiting for bad things to happen. But he's playing with confidence in this Redskins offense, and the way he played after the interceptions was proof of that. Sure, the Redskins turned to the running game more, but they should have done that anyway. And when Grossman needed to find Fred Davis or Santana Moss or Jabar Gaffney and make a big throw, he made it. More good than bad so far in this young season from Grossman, to be sure.

When Tim Hightower got tired after 15 first-half carries, Roy Helu proved more than capable of filling in and picking up critical yards for the Redskins. Washington's depth at running back is impressive, especially when you consider that they didn't even use Ryan Torain, who at one point last year was their starter.

One more game remains in the NFC East, of course, and I'll be there tonight to check out the Giants. Next week, I see all four teams!