It is December, the Dallas Cowboys have a chance to win the division, and their quarterback is coming off a fourth-quarter meltdown.
It’s beginning to look a lot like that time of year again for Tony Romo.
He and the Cowboys are at Washington, where last year he was intercepted three times in a Week 17 game that decided the NFC East. Sunday’s game isn’t for those stakes, but it is close — the Cowboys guarantee themselves a chance to play for the division at home next week if they win.
But first, Romo has to bounce back from another of those “Tony moments” — the interception last week that set up Green Bay’s go-ahead score in its rally from 23 points down.
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“Tony’s got thick skin,” tight end Jason Witten said. “He’s been at this a long time, played at a high level for a long time. I think when you play that position, when you have success in that position, a big part of it is how you handle things mentally. He does as good a job as anybody I’ve been around.”
Romo has experience in bouncing back.
In October, his interception set up Denver’s winning score, but the next week the Cowboys beat Washington in a home game.
Last year, he couldn’t organize the Cowboys fast enough to get closer for a field goal at Baltimore, and a 51-yard attempt missed. But the Cowboys won the next week on the road at Carolina.
Two years ago, his fumble and interception in the second half helped the New York Jets rally in the season opener. But the next week, Romo led a win at San Francisco despite cracked ribs.
“I have great faith in Tony because I’ve been around him when he’s done so many great things for us, in all quarters of the game, to help us win a lot of ballgames around here,” coach Jason Garrett said. “There’s a tremendous amount of evidence to that. He’s not perfect. Nobody’s perfect. I think you look at how he stacks up with a lot of other players in this league at that position, and he stacks up very favorably.”
Romo has had to make a habit of bouncing back. There is no trick to it.
“I just think you have to put things in front of you. Each week it comes fast,” he said. “If you’re too high from the week before, that’s not going to help your team win this week. If you’re too low, it’s not going to help your team. It’s just all part of being a good team and understanding how to play football in the National Football League.”
Romo admits he made a mistake last week in trying to pass once he got pressure from the Packers’ Clay Matthews. He made an off-balance throw to Miles Austin, and it ended up behind Austin, where it was intercepted.
In his 11th year, Romo continues to make late-game mistakes. But he has also led more comebacks than any quarterback in the league since 2011.
“We’ve had plenty of late-game victories,” he said. “If your football team is good enough, over time, you’re not going to play in 10 of them, 12 games like that in two years. We’ve been playing in them every week, and we understand that. Like I said before, the games are going to come down to a possession, and we’ve had a lot of success in those situations, and we’re going to have a lot going forward.”
Romo’s matter-of-fact faith in himself is noticed.
“His appearance, his approach in practice — he wants to win,” receiver Dez Bryant said. “It’d be different if he didn’t want to win; everybody would be just lollygagging and going on about their business. But it’s different. He wants to win, and we’re going to stay behind him. That’s what we’re going to do. That’s what we want to do. And we believe. We’re just going to continue to keep believing. That’s all we can do.”
The Cowboys can’t afford to lose faith in Romo. Not now. Not with a chance to win two games and win a division championship.
“I don’t think anybody ever would lose confidence in him,” Witten said. “Everything we are and we have accomplished over the last few years that you believe in and you hold on to is because of him and what he creates week in and week out and day in and day out. I think that’d be foolish for anybody to do that. Having said that, all elite quarterbacks, until you overcome it and prove it, you’re going to deal with that. It wasn’t too long that one of the best ever, the guy up in Denver, had to deal with that, as well.
“You don’t lose confidence in a guy like that. He does too much for your football team.”