As a final punctuation mark to two months of losing, the gray clouds over Sun Life Stadium opened and washed the Dallas Cowboys’ offense with rain early in Sunday’s game.
The symbolism — and the humor therein — were not lost on Tony Romo.
“Oh, yeah, there’s humor,” said the Cowboys quarterback, who was taking his first snaps since Sept. 20.
“I walked out to warmups and said, ‘Well, let’s see. It’s raining. We’ve got gusting winds. We’ve got rain. [Miami’s] got a good defensive line, maybe as good as we’re going to go up against, and they come out with some great coverage stuff we hadn’t seen.’
“But that’s the way it’s supposed to be. That’s why it’s the NFL.”
Romo, so sayeth the box score, did not part the clouds for the Cowboys on Sunday. But the 24-14 victory over the Dolphins surely made it seem like he did.
I got more comfortable as the game went on.
Tony Romo on his first Sunday back
Romo didn’t hit every target. He didn’t complete every pass. At times, even his best scrambles and pirouettes seemed to be sluggish and rusty.
But as Romo explained after the game, “I got more comfortable as the game went on.”
Romo threw textbook touchdown passes to Terrance Williams and Dez Bryant, and running back Darren McFadden had one of his best days in a Dallas uniform with 129 yards rushing, and the Cowboys’ defense did the rest.
50 Third-down percentage Sunday for Cowboys (7 of 14)
A couple of touchdowns and a few first downs, as it turns out, can be all it takes to inspire a defense for a team that had been on a seven-game losing streak.
So invigorated was Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, he turned to club PR man Rich Dalrymple and announced, “Our theme is, Romo makes a difference.
“Wasn’t that brilliant? It’s the best one I’ve ever done.
“I don’t care what you say, but he made a difference.”
Oh, that Jerry. He’s a regular Don Draper.
To be precise, however, the Cowboys’ defense probably carded the day’s most dominating performance. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the largely immobile Dolphins offense managed only nine first downs, 210 total yards and converted only one of 10 third-down situations.
Miami coach Dan Campbell suggested that penalties and dropped passes killed the Dolphins.
As the Cowboys’ Jason Garrett said, though, “I thought our defense was outstanding throughout the ballgame . . . I thought we were excellent on third down getting off the field.
“It was a total team effort.”
Which was exactly the message that Garrett and Romo tried to deliver at the team meeting Saturday night.
“We had a great team meeting,” said receiver Williams, who surged back to life by catching four Romo passes for 79 yards.
“Tony talked to us, and what he said really stayed with me. The same with coach Garrett. They both really had some powerful words for us.
“They said the game is going to come down to the whole team being on the same page, and if you play together good things will happen.”
The prime unifying presence, unmistakably, became Romo who, contrary to social media scuttlebutt, had not ballooned to 300 pounds and could no longer outrun the team mascot.
On the contrary. At times Sunday, Romo seemed like a second offensive coordinator on the field, changing the play call, gesturing people around.
We needed Tony and the threat of Tony back there to get that running game going. It was inspirational. He was inspirational.
Owner Jerry Jones on Romo
In the fourth quarter, which began with the score knotted 14-all, “He opened up the playbook for us. He let us do things,” Owner Jones said of Romo.
“Everybody felt it. We needed Tony’s kind of plays. We needed Tony and the threat of Tony back there to get that running game going. It was inspirational. He was inspirational.”
How inspirational, alas, remains to be seen. With seven defeats on their ledger, the Cowboys still have a mighty hill to climb. With only three days of rest, Romo will have to face the undefeated Carolina Panthers on Thanksgiving afternoon.
“You know our schedule,” Owner Jones said. “It’s going to be hard. But can we with Romo back? Can he make the difference and provide a win when we shouldn’t have won. Absolutely, he can do that.
“Good things could happen.”
Is Jerry crazy? No more than usual.
As ESPN’s Ed Werder, a former Star-Telegram colleague, pointed out, there are only three unbeaten left in the NFL:
The New England Patriots (9-0).
The Carolina Panthers (10-0).
And the Dallas Cowboys, 3-0 with Tony Romo.
Romo makes a difference.
Owner Jones wants you to remember where you heard it first.