Romo strong in December, Cowboys not so much

IRVING -- Tony Romo has been a better quarterback since that four-interception game against the New York Giants.

He's thrown 10 touchdown passes and only two interceptions since that last weekend in October. He's had a 70-percent-plus completion rate four times. He's had a 100-plus quarterback rating three times. The Dallas Cowboys are averaging better than 30 points in that time. And they're 3-2 in that stretch.

So naturally, when he met with reporters at his locker Thursday at Valley Ranch, one of the first questions was, "What's changed for you, Tony?"

And unnaturally for the verbally careful Romo, he spelled it out: He's doing things better, and the people around him are doing things better.

"More than anything, our turnovers have been cut down quite a bit," he said. "Obviously, you've tried to be a little bit more judicious with the ball. Saying that, I've made similar throws. It's just we've done some things the right way on the other side as well. We've gotten in and out of the route the right way and things of that nature that kind of have cost us a few times.

"I think as we've gone on, as the season's progressed, people as a whole have understood what we're trying to do and where we need to be."

If those two things continue to happen -- if Romo continues to do things better and the people around him continue to do things better -- Romo and the Cowboys will be well-armed to go into their annual December trial.

December has rarely been kind to them. Over the past 15 seasons, the Cowboys are 24-39 in the last month of the calendar.

This year, they face the prospect of having to win at least three, and perhaps all four, of the remaining games on their schedule to have a chance to reach the playoffs.

"It's a four-game season," Romo said. "We said that last week, 'It's a five-game season.' Saying that, it doesn't matter what happens going forward or what's happened in the past. It's literally about right now and playing your best football right now. We need a lot of guys to step up and play a great football game this weekend. We had some guys step up last week. We just need to come together collectively as a group. If we do that, we'll have a chance to win."

With a battered defense that is trying to work with a patchwork lineup every week, improved performance from Romo and the offense takes on heightened importance.

"He's done a good job on third down, keeping the chains alive, here recently," tight end Jason Witten said of Romo. "Running the ball has been helping us. I think the more manageable those possessions are on third down, the better we've been. We've still got to eliminate the penalties and give ourselves a chance. He's done a great job of finding guys open, keeping plays alive and make big plays."

At least this December is off to a good start. Last week, Romo had a near-perfect 150.5 quarterback rating. He threw three touchdown passes and no interceptions.

But again, perhaps symbolizing his season, Romo had to rally the Cowboys.

"He not only does it over the course of the season where you start off, drop a few games and have some interceptions, but he does it within the games," executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "He will start off and have a few things not go our way offensively and rebound.

"I think I heard Troy Aikman say it best, that Tony Romo was the best he has ever seen at giving his team, even when they are significantly behind, the chance to win the game."

Romo has not been bad in December lately. Last year, he threw eight touchdown passes and no interceptions in four December games (although one was the injury-shortened start against Philadelphia).

He didn't play any December games in 2010 when he had a broken collar bone.

In 2009, he threw seven touchdown passes and had one interception in four December games. In his past nine December starts, Romo has thrown 18 touchdown passes to one interception, although the Cowboys are only 4-5.

"Statistics? It's about winning and losing," Romo said. "Stats are just there for people to talk about. I understand that. My team does. As long as we keep winning, that's a good sign."

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @calexmendez

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