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Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Romo has risen to December challenges

By Tim MacMahon

IRVING, Texas -- Still pinning the Dallas Cowboys' December problems on Tony Romo? Please turn the page past 2008.

Fair or not, quarterback is the only position in football that gets assigned a win-loss record. Romo's 11-15 record in December games certainly leaves a lot to be desired.

Romo
However, so does criticism that simply points to that record as proof that Romo melts down when the temperatures turn cold and the intensity heats up.

Here is the entire list of quarterbacks who have a better December passer rating than Romo since 2009: Aaron Rodgers. That's it.

Yet the Cowboys are only 6-7 in December games started by Romo in that span. Sorry, but it's pretty silly to point the finger at the franchise quarterback with a 106.3 passer rating in those games. To put that rating in perspective, it's more than 10 points better than his norm, which ranks fifth in NFL history.

This doesn't mean Romo gets a pass for all of the losses. The responsibility for last season's win-or-go-home failure at FedExField falls primarily at his feet because of the three picks he threw in that loss to the Washington Redskins. That really put a dent in his December touchdown to interception ratio since 2009, but 27:5 ain't too shabby.

One of those losses on Romo's December record was in 2011 against the Philadelphia Eagles, when he left the game after one series because of a bruised hand, and the fact that the outcome wouldn't affect the Cowboys' playoff chances. In the other 12 games since 2009, he's averaged more than 300 passing yards (8.05 per attempt) while completing 66.8 percent of his passes, throwing for those 27 touchdowns and only five picks.

The Cowboys had a couple of January regular-season finales in that span, beating the Eagles to claim the 2009 NFC East crown and losing to the New York Giants with the 2011 division title at stake. Romo averaged 300 yards and had a passer rating of 106.5 in those games.

You can't reasonably expect a quarterback to be any better than that in big games.

Want to blame Romo for the December 2011 loss to the Giants when all he did was throw for 321 yards with four touchdowns and no picks? Or last December's overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints when he threw for 416 yards with four scores and no interceptions?

Well, don't let little things like facts and logic get in your way.

The perception of Romo as a December dud is based on reality, but that reality isn't recent, with the exception of the regular-season finale against the Redskins. There was a time when Romo consistently performed poorly in the season's final month. He stunk in his first three Decembers as a starter. The ugly stats: 58.5 completion percentage, 6.73 yards per attempt, 14/19 TD/INT ratio, 71.9 passer rating and a 5-8 record.

A reputation for choking doesn't die easily, however. The only way it will happen for Romo is if he has playoff success, which he long ago accepted as part of the deal as the franchise quarterback.

The first step is for Romo to raise his level of play again this December -- and for his teammates to join him for a change.