Perception about to blitz Tony Romo
Season-ending loss shouldn't fall entirely at QBs feet, but detractors will put it there
If you want, you can steal the line a New York Giants' fan threw at him as he walked to the team bus after the 31-14 loss at MetLife Stadium.
"Romo, you're like origami," the knucklehead yelled. "You fold."
It would be a better line if it were accurate, but such is the perception that Romo will battle until the Cowboys win a Super Bowl.
This loss should not fall entirely on Romo's shoulders, but it will anyway. That's the life of a Cowboys' quarterback not named Roger Staubach or Troy Aikman.
Romo finished with 289 yards passing, completing 29 of 37 throws. He had two touchdown passes and one interception. He was sacked a season-high six times and lost one fumble.
"I always feel like whenever we lose a football game, I look back to a play or two where something could've changed the outcome," Romo said. "When you play this position, that's ultimately what goes through your mind."
If you want, you can go to the first series of the game when his third-down pass to Dez Bryant was too long. Bryant was open and Romo had him, but he missed him.
And with a defensive showing that was disgusting in the first half and gave up key plays after the offense made it a game in the second half, there was no margin of error for Romo.
"I just didn't have the ball in my hand and feeling comfortable," Romo said of the throw to Bryant.
But Romo would not use his bruised right hand as an excuse. He needed a pain-killing injection before the game to help him take snaps from under center. Remember earlier in the season he needed pregame injections to play through a fractured rib.
"I think he's shown the mental toughness that we all know he has," Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said. "That's a lot of being physically tough, too."
The Cowboys' poor start really left Romo without much of a chance when facing a pass rush like the Giants'.
The Cowboys had a flicker of hope after Lawrence Tynes missed a 40-yard field-goal attempt. Romo had the Cowboys at the New York 39 on third-and-4. He sliced and diced his way out of trouble and found Dez Bryant at the Giants 22.
Unfortunately, he had passed the line of scrimmage for a penalty.
That Romo -- who has uncanny field awareness -- would make such a mistake speaks to the kind of night it was for the Cowboys.
"I can't remember the last time that happened," Romo said. "Crazy, but ... "
Crazy, but Romo had the Cowboys within a touchdown with 10:15 to play after his second touchdown pass of the game to Laurent Robinson. MetLife Stadium had gone quiet and the Cowboys defense had actually rallied.
But then the play that will haunt the Cowboys for the entire offseason happened. On third-and-7, Eli Manning heaved the ball downfield to Victor Cruz, who outjumped Orlando Scandrick and came down with the 44-yard catch.
The Giants closed that drive with a Tynes' field goal to make it 24-14 with 5:45 to play.
The Cowboys' final two drives ended with a three-and-out and a Romo fumble on a Mathias Kiwanuka sack.
The game and the season were over. To some, it won't be that the Cowboys lost. It will be that Romo lost.
The next chance isn't for another nine months. Romo turns 32 in April, but he is coming off perhaps his best season with 4,184 yards passing, 31 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. His 102.5 passer rating was the best he has ever had.
"In this position, you need to win or go home and you have to give them credit," Rom said. "They did what they needed to do to win and we didn't. It's not going to sit well with me or I suspect most of the guys on the team. It's going to fuel the fire to come back and be better from this. Just right now, it really burns."
Todd Archer covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.