Commentary

Finale about more than Tony Romo

Cowboys QB's legacy not at stake in Washington, but it won't matter if others flop

Updated: December 31, 2012, 10:05 AM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- Tony Romo's legacy is not at stake Sunday night against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field.

[+] EnlargeDrew Brees and Tony Romo
AP Photo/Sharon EllmanTony Romo (left) has held his own against elite quarterbacks such as the Saints' Drew Brees, but he can't play defense.
It's silly to even talk about it because Romo's career has years left. Only when it ends can we put Romo's career in a box and put a bow on it.

Say what you want, but Sunday's game is about more than Romo just like it is every other week. We know he must play well for the Dallas Cowboys to win, but if the defense and special teams play poorly, it won't matter.

Again.

Since 2009, Romo has played against 19 upper-echelon quarterbacks, from Eli Manning to Matt Ryan to Robert Griffin III.

He has had a better passer rating than the opposing quarterback 13 times, yet the Cowboys have won only four of those games.

See, it's bigger than Romo.

Last week is a good example of why you shouldn't say Romo's legacy hangs on one game.

He passed for 416 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions and led the Cowboys on a pair of long scoring drives in the last four minutes to force overtime.

And it wasn't enough. The Cowboys lost in overtime.

Last December, Romo outplayed Manning, passing for more than 400 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. But Miles Austin somehow lost a potential game-clinching touchdown pass in the lights during the fourth quarter, and the Giants rallied to win.

"I think as a competitor, as an athlete, you love playing in these games," Romo said of playing the Redskins. "You love playing in these situations. I wish you could play in them every week but in a lot of ways every game kind of feels important to this level.

"As important as this game is, at this point it's the most important of the season, but so was the game four weeks ago, three weeks ago, two weeks ago. We've been playing in a playoff game here for a while now and we're just going to put our head down and keep running."

Look at this defense Rob Ryan is patching together with bubble gum and bobbie pins.

Four starters are on injured reserve, not including cornerback Orlando Scandrick, who usually plays when the Cowboys use schemes with five or six defensive backs. A variety of injuries has limited perennial Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff to just five games.

Guys such as Sterling Moore, Ernie Sims, Brian Schaefering, Michael Coe, Eric Frampton, Charlie Peprah, Brady Poppinga and Rob Callaway have accounted for 440 snaps the past three games.

None of them were even on the Cowboys' roster in September.

The reality is Romo could lead the Cowboys' offense to 30 points and it might not be enough. Heck, 35 points might not be enough for this defense.

The good news is Romo is more prepared than he has ever been to have success in a big game like this.

Dez Bryant is playing his best football and Jason Witten has established an NFL record for tight ends with 103 receptions this season.

DeMarco Murray, aside from key fumbles each of the past two weeks, is playing well and the offensive line is the best it has been all season.

Romo has 17 touchdowns and three interceptions in the past seven games and is no longer a good quarterback in the midst of a poor season.

The dumb decisions have ended. He's making plays to win games instead of losing them.

And he's not thinking about the losses in win-and-get-in games in 2007 against the Philadelphia Eagles or last season against the Giants.

Both were blowouts.

"I think more than anything I'm a completely different player than I was four, three, two years ago," Romo said. "I look back and laugh at that guy who played in some of those games then.

"Use all of your experiences to your advantage. If you're team is good enough, you'll move on. And I like our football team the way they've been working and practicing, and I think we have a great opportunity."

But it'll take more than a great game from Romo to beat Washington. If his teammates play as well as he does, then Dallas will make the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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