Cowboys' Romo must learn not to be Tony Turnover

Posted Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
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The Dallas Cowboys have seen the good, the bad and the ugly from Tony Romo in 81 career starts. The quarterback has given them more good than bad or ugly with 49 victories.

But the Cowboys were hoping to see more of the good and less of the bad and the ugly this season after what Romo did in the final 12 games last season.

So far this season, Romo has 10 turnovers, including five interceptions in the 34-18 loss to the Chicago Bears. He had only 13 turnovers all of last season.

"It's kind of been a two-steps forward and a step back," Cowboys quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson said. "We had the Buffalo situation a few years back, and he learned from that. Then last year, he had the Detroit situation, and he learned from that, and he played really well afterward. You would hope that he wouldn't have to experience that again. If he does, then hopefully he plays like he did at the end of last year."

Romo has not gotten much help this season as the Cowboys' offensive line hasn't given him much time; his receivers have dropped passes and not been on the same page; and the running game has failed to get going.

The Cowboys are 16th in total offense, averaging 364 yards per game. For a full season, they have not averaged fewer yards than that since 2008, when they had finished at 344.5.

Romo vowed after the Bears' game, when two of his interceptions were returned for touchdowns, that he would quit trying to do too much.

"At the end of the day, it's about winning football games," Romo said last week, "and we've just got to do the things that allow us and give us a chance to win football games, and we're doing some things to correct that."

Romo threw three second-half interceptions against Detroit in the fourth game last year, with two of them returned for touchdowns, allowing the Lions to rally from a 24-point deficit to win 34-30. In the 12 games after that, Romo completed 64.9 percent of his passes for 2,911 yards with 24 touchdowns and five interceptions.

The Cowboys ran the ball more -- and better -- in those 12 games, and Romo took more sacks -- an average of 2.4 per game - instead of trying to force the ball.

The Cowboys are hoping they see that Tony Romo the final 12 games this season.

"When you don't run the football, when you're behind the chains a little bit, and you're the guy who has the ball in his hands on every play, there's a natural instinct if you're a great competitor like Tony is to say, 'Hey, I can do something. I can fix this,'" Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "Ultimately, when you do that at any position, particularly at the quarterback position, you set yourself up for some difficult situations.

"I think Tony's done some really good things for us this year, and at times when he hasn't done good things, it's probably because we haven't been in a great situation, and he's trying to make up for something. He just has to go back and be one-eleventh of the offense, like he's been throughout most of his career, and do his job and trust everybody else to do their job."

It is a "thin line," Wilson said, between "competing and doing too much." The Cowboys don't want to take the gunslinger mentality out of Romo, because they have seen so many of his improvised plays turn great. At the same time, they have stressed to Romo his need to be more careful with the football.

"In the rear perspective, he's made those plays, and he's stayed away from the bad plays," Wilson said. "The last seven or eight games of last year, he did that. He needs to consistently do that. It's a very fine line. What we talk about between the two of us is the game situation like the one early in the game Seattle, or against the Giants, there is no need to take a high-risk throw there. So manage the game situation a little bit better with your decisions. He's on board with that."

The Cowboys are simplifying things for Romo this week by lightening his pre-snap load. By doing that, they plan on seeing more of the good out of Romo and less of the bad and the ugly.

"I've seen it from him," Wilson said. "He's had plenty of adversity, and he's had his criticism, but he doesn't blink. He's shown that he can bounce back every time, and no question that he'll do it again this time."

Charean Williams, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @NFLCharean

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