Monday, September 12, 2011
Updated: September 13, 8:43 AM ET
Cowboys stand by Tony Romo
By Tim MacMahon
IRVING, Texas -- Tony Romo took the blame for the Dallas Cowboys' loss in Sunday night's season opener, accepting responsibility for committing a pair of critical turnovers to allow the New York Jets to rally from a 14-point deficit.
Romo's teammates adamantly insist that they haven't lost any confidence in their quarterback and leader.
"I'll take that guy over anybody in the league," veteran linebacker Keith Brooking said. "Y'all might thing I'm crazy, but he's going to have an all-time year. He's going to shatter every record."
Added receiver Dez Bryant: "I know the guys in this locker room wouldn't trade him for nothing. He's the best. He's the real deal. He is the real deal. We don't care what nobody say. As long as we know in this locker room who that guy is, that's the only thing that matters."
Romo put up pretty numbers against one of the NFL's elite defenses, completing 23 of 36 passes for 342 yards and two touchdowns to put the Cowboys in position to pull off a road upset over a Jets team coming off consecutive appearances in the AFC Championship Game.
The Cowboys see that performance against a premier opponent as evidence in favor of the three-time Pro Bowler's case as one of the league's elite quarterbacks.
"I think our confidence is even higher," tight end Jason Witten said. "I think everybody across the board has that same confidence in him. He has it in himself. Obviously a disappointing couple of plays, but that doesn't define who he is. We know what type of player he is. We'll get back on track. We've got all the confidence in the world in him."
However, Romo was at his worst with the game on the line against the Jets, which was a primary reason the Cowboys lost for the seventh time in his last eight starts.
His fumble on a third-and-goal scramble with 8:59 remaining in the fourth quarter prevented the Cowboys from pushing the lead back to two scores. He followed that with a three-and-out series that included two incomplete passes and a delay-of-game penalty, a possession that ended with a blocked punt that was returned for a game-tying touchdown. With a chance to drive for the winning score in the final minute, Romo was fooled by the Jets' zone coverage and made an admitted "dumb decision" that resulted in an easy interception by Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis to set up the deciding field goal.
For Romo's critics, the fourth-quarter meltdown added ammunition to the argument that he shrinks in the clutch.
"I don't know what you're talking about there," Brooking said with a strong hint of disgust in his voice. "Is that his rap? I mean, that's not the rap in this locker room. Who cares what everybody else thinks?
"I think it's important to be accountable. But we're all hard on ourselves after a tough loss. That wasn't Tony Romo's loss. He's not getting the blame. Even though he took the blame, he took the responsibility, that's not the way teams look at it, and that's not the way this team looks at it."
Tim MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.