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Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Cowboys' December hinges on Tony Romo

By Tim MacMahon

Tony Romo
The Cowboys will have to rely on Tony Romo and not their defense if they want to make the playoffs.
CHICAGO -- Tony Romo's performance ranked far down the list of the Dallas Cowboys' problems in this Monday night massacre. His name might not have even made the first page.

But the 45-28 butt-kicking delivered by the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field did happen in December, so slap another loss on Romo's record in the final month of the regular season.

In case you've been hiding under a rock or had your cable and Internet wiped out by Icemageddon, the lopsided loss drops Romo's career December record to 11-16. Fair or not, only franchise quarterbacks and head coaches get assigned win-loss records in football. That's just a fact.

Here's another dose of reality: Romo will have to be a superhero to give the Cowboys any chance of being successful enough in this December to extend their season.

"I just look at our football team needs to keep improving," Romo said when this theory was presented to him. "We just need to execute better and play better football. We did not play a sound enough and good enough game to win."

That's a bunch of politically correct bull, and Romo knows it.

Romo is smart enough to know how foolish it is to think that a defense that ranks dead last in the league and just got lit up by a journeyman backup is going to be dependable down the stretch. The Cowboys' only hope is to outscore opponents, especially if Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers is cleared to play next week.

Romo might not be willing to say it, but if he doesn't perform magic with his play over the next few weeks, the Cowboys will watch the playoffs from the couch for the fourth straight year. Now is the time to earn the $55 million in guaranteed money from the deal he signed last summer.

Decent isn't going to get it done on a team that features Monte Kiffin's dreadful defense. Romo was just OK against the Bears, completing 11 of 20 passes for 104 yards.

Romo did throw for three touchdowns and had a passer rating of 109.2. That means his December passer rating since 2009, which ranks second to Rodgers in that span, got boosted a bit. And his ridiculous touchdown to interception ratio in those games improved to 30-5.

Wait, is this a bad time to bring up those stats? They certainly aren't going to comfort any Cowboys fans after watching Monday's football failure.

Ultimately, all that matters is the Cowboys are 6-8 in games started by Romo in that span. Rational arguments about how much fault falls at his feet can drowned out by the screams about Romo fading when the weather gets cold and the pressure gets hot.

Sometimes, even greatness from Romo can't rescue the Cowboys in December.

There is a pair of glaring examples from the past two seasons. Romo threw for 321 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions in a 37-34 loss to the New York Giants in December 2011. He threw for 416 yards and four scores in a 34-31 loss to the New Orleans Saints last December.

But Romo couldn't cover anyone or make a tackle in either of those games. And the Dallas defense didn't do a whole lot of that sort of thing, either.

"I just think we've got to have everything we can possibly get out of him," owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. "You don't have to be flawless to win a football game, but we've got to count on getting some stops."

The Cowboys can't count on this sorry defense getting any stops, so Romo better be close to flawless to give them any hope to avoid more December misery.