Tony Romo’s biggest fans waited for him as he exited the Dallas Cowboys’ locker room Sunday. Romo offered a wide smile as he posed for pictures with his wife, Candice, and several of their friends.
Romo’s return proved joyous for everyone in Cowboys Nation.
After eight weeks and seven games of waiting, wishing and losing, the Cowboys saw their starting quarterback and their winning ways return.
Romo made a difference; he made a difference. He is the savior of our season.
Defensive end Jeremy Mincey
“Romo made a difference; he made a difference,” defensive end Jeremy Mincey said. “He is the savior of our season.”
Romo stepped up Sunday after stepping up Saturday night in the offensive meeting room. His speech inspired them to do what they did a day later in a 24-14 victory over the Miami Dolphins that has the Cowboys within two games of the NFC East lead and dreaming of the postseason.
“I told the guys ... that it was really inspirational watching them,” Romo said. “Even though we didn’t win over the last seven weeks, and I know that’s ultimately what we are all defined by — how you perform and play on Sundays — is really a direct reflection of who you are. I told them that the wins and losses are what people talk about, but the way that they played was inspiring.
“ ... Our football team never let up. The tough part is when that doesn’t produce results because then it gets tougher each time. The fact that they have committed to this and just getting better, and then let the results happen later, has just been a great thing to see.”
The Cowboys averaged 322 total yards, including 196 passing, in the seven games without Romo. They failed to score a touchdown in three of the seven losses, and averaged just 17 points per game in that stretch.
The Cowboys had 386 yards, including 220 passing Sunday, as Romo went 18 for 28 for 227 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Romo wasn’t perfect, but he was good enough.
I think as the game went on, I started to find that rhythm and we started moving the ball pretty well.
“I got more comfortable as the game went on,” Romo said. “I think what happened was the combination of the situational thinking throughout the game, and that got better and better as the game went on. Then my footwork got better, and I got tighter with everything. I trusted what I was seeing.
“Sometimes I threw it a little bit away or low, and that was just because I was not 100 percent certain, and that just comes from a layoff. I think as the game went on, I started to find that rhythm and we started moving the ball pretty well.”
The Cowboys’ game plan called for Romo to get a couple of simple completions early to shake off the rust. He didn’t envision the first pass being a left-handed flip to Darren McFadden in a driving rainstorm to avoid a sack.
It didn’t pick up a first down, on third-and-10, but it did set the tone that Romo was back.
“To give you an idea, if you ever want to make a picture of his positive competitive mentality, do it when he came back off a shoulder that had six fractures,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “OK? Six. OK! And he came back, and the first thing he did was go out there and deal with that kind of rush in a driving rain.
“Now, there’s no glory there. That’s not big-time lights, anything. That’s just big men coming down on you hard in a monsoon, trying to figure out how not to have a terrible play at the first of a ballgame. That defines him so well. He’s had many defining plays. That’s a defining play right there. That’s fresh off of no competition for two months. So, hello!”
The Cowboys next have to face the unbeaten Carolina Panthers, who blasted Washington 44-16 on Sunday.
Now Romo has to do it again on a short week. The Cowboys play the undefeated Carolina Panthers on Thursday afternoon, and Romo went 18 for 29 for 199 yards and two interceptions in a 33-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Thanksgiving last year.
But the Cowboys have an undefeated streak, too: They are 3-0 with Romo and 0-7 without him.
“When we’re through with this season, I want our fans to say, ‘But had they had Romo, this might have been one of the best teams or the best team in the NFL,’ ” Jones said. “That’s the goal.”