September 12, 2011

Cowboys, Romo fall apart in clutch time

An interception and a blocked punt prove to be the Cowboys' downfall.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Dallas Cowboys hoped to begin the 2011 season with a fresh start and new outlook.

But after an error-prone performance that was as baffling as it was gut-wrenching, it ended up similar to the 6-10 season of a year ago with the same old mistakes and same old heartbreak.

Former Cowboys kicker Nick Folk made a 50-yard field goal with 27 seconds left to give the New York Jets a 27-24 victory before 78,702 fans at MetLife Stadium.

It was poetic justice for Folk, who was cut by the Cowboys because of injuries two years ago after making the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2007.

It was also a satisfying victory for the Jets and their fans on the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

The stadium was certainly emotionally charged as the fans were fired from up from tributes before the game and during halftime.

The Cowboys tried to join the emotions of the night with their own commemoration of the national tragedy by wearing hats of the FDNY.

They contributed mostly with turnovers in the fourth quarter, with quarterback Tony Romo admittedly doing the most harm.

Playing for the first time since suffering a fractured clavicle and being sidelined for the final 10 games of 2010, Romo had a fumble and an interception in the final quarter.

"This game came down to one or two plays, the plays that I gave them the ball [on Darrelle Revis' interception]. He did a good job of staying underneath the route," Romo said. "I cost us the game. I've got to do a better job right now."

The fumble came at the 3-yard line with the Cowboys leading 24-17. Instead of taking a 27-17 or 31-17 lead with a field goal or touchdown, the Cowboys were stopped cold.

Romo was initially saved by the Cowboys defense as a blitzing safety Danny McCray sacked Sanchez, and recovered his fumble.

But more Cowboys mistakes turned the tide again as the ensuing drive was bogged down by back-to-back delay-of-game and false-start penalties.

Then disaster struck when running back Joe McKnight broke through to block a punt by Mat McBriar.

It was returned 18 yards to the end zone by Isaiah Trufant, tying the game 24-24.

With 49 seconds left in the game and the Cowboys at their own 34-yard line, Romo forced the ball to receiver Dez Bryant against Revis, who jumped the route and made the interception.

He returned it 20 yards to set up Folk's final heroics.

"I haven't looked at the tape, but I'm pretty sure Dez did a good job adjusting to it. I've got to do a good job adjusting to him," Romo said.

The Cowboys fumbled on the final play of the game to punctuate their comedy of errors when the game mattered most.

"We didn't handle the situation well at the end of the game," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said.

Romo completed 23 of 36 passes for 342 yards and two touchdowns to go along with the costly interception.

He was sacked four times as the Cowboys struggled throughout with their inexperienced offensive line against the Jets' blitzing defense.

The disappointing part is that Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan matched his brother, Jets coach Rex Ryan, blitz for blitz.

The Cowboys had four sacks, including two by DeMarcus Ware. They also just held the Jets to 45 yards rushing, forced a fumble and got an interception from inside linebacker Sean Lee.

Clarence E. Hill Jr.


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