Tony Romo: Not in the script
Triumph in Tampa, turning around his late-season flops 'part of the maturation process'
TAMPA, Fla. -- Has Tony Romo done enough to dispel this December/January thing for you?
Maybe even just a little bit?
It's a week-to-week battle, especially with the Cowboys fighting for their playoff lives, and he needs to lead the Cowboys to the postseason to put to rest the ghosts of seasons past. He probably would need a playoff victory, too, for some.
Just look at the numbers. He has completed 72 of 103 passes for 869 yards, with eight touchdowns and no interceptions.
"It would be as big a career disappointment as we've had around here if we're not in the playoffs, as well as he's been playing," said owner and general manager Jerry Jones.
Romo has been the November Romo, the month in which he is 19-2 all time as a starter. He has made plays in all kinds of ways, and he's protected the ball as well as he ever has. His one mistake Saturday was holding the ball a smidge too long on third-and-19, leading to a sack, fumble and Buccaneers touchdown -- Tampa Bay's first score -- to make it 28-7 early in the third quarter.
There would be no Detroit Lions redux at Raymond James Stadium.
"Not in the game of talking about what I'm doing," Romo said as he knotted his purple tie in the locker room well after most of his teammates had made their way to the bus. "It's about winning and losing. We're trying to get better, and trying to keep improving as a team and individually."
In his suitcase was a copy of "One for the Ages," a book recalling Jack Nicklaus' win at the 1986 Masters. He can recite Nicklaus' back nine almost shot for shot. The eagle on No. 15. The birdie on No. 16. The birdie on No. 17. He was 5 when Nicklaus won his last major championship, but he has read so much about him that he feels like he was at Augusta National that day.
Those comeback stories are what Romo loves most about sports. That's why "The Natural" is his favorite sports movie. He wears No. 9 because of Roy Hobbs.
Romo is not in the midst of his own comeback story. He is changing the script others have written for him that claims he never wins big games, that he always falters in the clutch, damn what the statistics say. The perceptions have stuck to him like Velcro.
"Lot of the same things," Morris said. "He's a great leader. Really poised in the huddle, poised during the week in practice. Again, he's just the consummate professional. You can tell that already.
"I told him at the start of the game he was going to get tired of me asking questions because I had some familiarity with Jason [Garrett's] system, but some things I was kind of rusty on," he said. "But he does a great job of making everybody better around him."
Romo completed his first four passes on the opening drive. On third-and-goal from the Tampa Bay 8, Romo scrambled, ran into left guard Montrae Holland, spun free and fired a bullet to Miles Austin, who ripped the ball away from safety Sean Jones for the touchdown.
On the second drive, he completed three of four passes for 45 yards and found Dez Bryant in the back of the end zone for an 8-yard score.
On the Cowboys' fourth drive of the game, which was highlighted by a 38-yard pickup by Felix Jones, Romo completed three of four passes for 31 yards. Moving to his right on third-and-5, Romo could have run for a first down but saw Laurent Robinson flash behind a defensive back, and he hit his target for a 9-yard touchdown toss.
The Cowboys made it 28-0 on their final drive of the half, with Romo completing all six passes in a two-minute offense to five receivers. He dove in from the 1 for his first rushing touchdown since 2009.
After the game, Garrett said Romo is seeing the field as well as he ever has.
"You start to learn and gain an understanding and become more accurate, your feet get better," Romo said. "That's why you work so hard in the offseason, so the things that were hard when you were younger get easier as you get older. It's part of the maturation process for a quarterback."
Romo has one more game in December and another in January to flip the late-season script and force many people to rewrite. He is now 9-12 in regular-season games in December and January, a number he professes not to know or care much about.
What matters are the next day and the next game.
"Just trying to win games," he said.