Tony Romo reminds us what he can do
With time to throw, Cowboys QB avoids turnovers, shows he still can pile up numbers
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Where, oh where, had Tony Romo gone?
The Dallas Cowboys' passing game had disappeared over the past several weeks, and so many theories abounded as to why Romo was struggling.
Some of the reasons were legitimate, like the fractured rib he suffered in Week 2 at San Francisco and the record-setting rushing performance DeMarco Murray had two weeks ago with 253 yards against St. Louis.
Some of it was manufactured, like Jason Garrett not trusting a quarterback who had set franchise records in passing yards and touchdowns in the four-plus years they have been together.
Sexy isn't acknowledging the effect of a young and makeshift offensive line.
Sexy is calling for the Cowboys to get into the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.
But in Sunday's 23-13 win against Seattle at Cowboys Stadium, Romo was Romo, or at least close to the Romo that won over the fans in 2006.
Romo completed 19 of 31 passes for 279 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He had a passer rating of 112.2.
"What we need to do is have Romo be able to make some vintage Romo-type plays, and he was able to do that today," owner and general manager Jerry Jones said.
For the first time since suffering the rib injury, Romo did not take a pain-killing injection before the game, although he still wore the protective vest.
He spun away from an unblocked and blitzing Seattle safety, Atari Bigby, near the goal line in the second quarter but could not connect for a touchdown pass. He ran three times for 13 yards, but boos came down in the first quarter when a third-and-goal scramble left him 2 yards short of the end zone with a linebacker closing fast.
"If I had taken a [pain-killing] shot, there's no question I wouldn't have slid," Romo said.
Those who booed must have forgotten the rib injury and his lost fumble in the season opener at the New York Jets' 3-yard line that cost the Cowboys at least the chance at a field goal in their 24-21 loss.
"I gauged the level I could get into the end zone, and it came up zero in my brain as I was running," Romo joked.
In the third quarter he ran for 11 yards on third-and-4 and on the next play connected with Jason Witten for a 33-yard touchdown and a 13-6 lead. Two possessions later he put the Seahawks away by buying time in a pocket, his head moving this way and that looking for a defender, before finding wide receiver Laurent Robinson crossing in the back of the end zone.
"Tony has great vision," Garrett said. "He sees things. He understands spatial relations on the field as well as any player I've ever been around."
Romo also threw the ball down the field, and this is where the coach's trust comes into play. The theory was that Romo's meltdown against the Lions -- three second-half picks, two returned for touchdowns -- forced Garrett into a shell.
It is hard to throw the ball down the field when you don't have time. On Sunday, Romo had time.
After averaging 9 yards on three catches at Philadelphia, Miles Austin had two catches for 53 yards before a hamstring injury forced him to the sideline. After averaging 9.3 yards per catch against the Eagles, Dez Bryant had 76 yards on four catches. After averaging 7 yards per catch in each of the previous two games, Witten had 71 yards on four catches.
For the first time all year, Romo was not sacked.
"If you get that kind of time, it is going to be a good day," Romo said.
It should have been a lot better. Romo missed Austin in the end zone for a touchdown pass. The Cowboys converted on only one of three red zone trips, continuing to show the ability to put up a ton of yards without scoring points.
The Cowboys had to settle for two 20-yard field goals by Dan Bailey, keeping the game closer than it should have been.
"If you allow yourself to become frustrated you might, from Jason's perspective, call the game differently or from my perspective do something different than what the play is called for on the next play," Romo said. "You have to trust the people around you to do a good job. I mean that on defense, special teams and offensive line and wide receivers. Everybody.
"If you become frustrated, I've been part of this in the past where I feel like I have to do too much. You don't need to. We have good players. You just have to keep attacking, keep doing what your read tells you to do."
The Cowboys need more of this vintage Romo in order to make a playoff push.
"I think it's just the 6 a.m. runs I'm doing," Romo said. "It's really separating me from everything."
He was joking, but it makes as much sense as some of the other stuff that had been going around.
Todd Archer covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.