Streaky Tony Romo is dodging tacklers, turnovers for Cowboys

IRVING -- He has seen it so many times, Jason Witten must have stopped shaking his head by now at the amazing escapes of Tony Romo.

Yeah, right.

"I never stop shaking my head," he said.

Imagine what a newcomer to the Dallas Cowboys such as offensive line coach Bill Callahan must think.

"One of the best I've ever seen," the former Oakland Raiders and Nebraska coach and Philadelphia Eagles assistant coach said. "I used to think Rich Gannon was pretty good at it. But this was incredible. Absolutely incredible.

"I thought he was sacked about three times on one play. But he came out of it spectacularly. It was phenomenal."

The play they are talking about is the third-and-5 pass in the third quarter against the Eagles on Sunday, when Romo spun and ducked under and away from four defensive linemen -- including top sack artists Jason Babin and Trent Cole, plus tackles Cullen Jenkins and Fletcher Cox -- to complete a 25-yard pass to Miles Austin that kept a game-tying drive alive.

It is a symbol of the season for the offense. Romo, under fire, found a way to make a play and keep the Cowboys going.

The Cowboys, in the midst of one of their lowest-scoring seasons, found a way to produce a second turnover-free game.

It has given the Cowboys, averaging 18.6 points, a flicker of momentum as they get ready to play the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, aiming for their first two-game winning streak of the season.

"That's him," Witten said of Romo. "It's special."

It is practically unteachable.

Coach Jason Garrett said Romo's getaway skills come from years of soccer and basketball, sports that emphasize spatial awareness, footwork, balance and hand-eye coordination.

"You think about the touchdown he threw in the end zone to John Phillips against the Giants a couple of weeks ago," Garrett said. "Literally, it was a basketball-type play. He came out, and his eyes are over here, and all the while, he knows he's going to throw it here -- boom, it's right back there."

"Exactly," Phillips said. "I don't think his eyes came back to me at all."

Said Garrett, "He does things with his eyes on the move to move defenders, and then know, 'I'm going to throw it back here,' more than I've ever seen any quarterback. These guys that are chasing him are big-time, world-class athletes. And he's moving them around. ...Not many quarterbacks do that kind of stuff."

But Romo's amazing plays come with amazing risks.

Last week at Philadelphia, he also attempted one of those shovel passes he likes to throw out of a collapsing huddle. It was complete. It went for a short gain. But was it worth the risk?

Garrett said that is the question he asks of Romo after every film session.

"Why that was a good play or why that was a bad play?" Garrett said. "Hopefully, some of that registers. The problem is sometimes a play like this can reinforce doing things like that because he makes them work. You just have to be careful. You say, again, let's just go through this. Is this really what you wanted to do? The risk and reward of this 3-yard gain as opposed to another play, where you make the third-and-5, where he makes six guys miss and throws it for a 25-yard gain.

"It's a little bit of a balancing act. But again, we never want to stifle him to the point where he's not being who he is."

The Cowboys' offense relies on Romo's skills, even if they come with a high risk of turnover.

Romo knows that better than anyone.

"I think every quarterback, when you're young, you learn," he said. "It just comes down to trusting the people around you, and you have to play at the highest level. The best quarterbacks, you have to cut it loose and you have to let it go, and you have to trust that everyone is going to do the right thing.

"If you're not going to do that consistently, you're only going to be average, anyway. That's not going to help the team get to where they're trying to go."

Romo can help right now.

In his own shake-your-head way.

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407

Twitter: @calexmendez

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