Mac Engel

Tony Romo’s Wild Ride is a thrill a fragile minute

When Tony Romo lay flat on his back in the third quarter Monday night, looking like a corpse, all around FW/d you could hear cries of “Oh, God!” or “Dios, mio!”

The last time North Texas felt this sick was Game 6 of the 2011 World Series.

But, alas, the Cowboys’ “loss” may have been their best win of the year — or at least it provided the single biggest relief thus far in this great season of surprise. Tony Romo is not dead, out for the year or for the rest of his career.

When Romo was steamrolled by the Redskins’ Keenan Robinson, and he reached for his back, the outcome of Cowboys v. Redskins immediately became gravy. As long as Romo wasn’t out forever, losing this game was a nothing by comparison..

The Redskins exposed a few things about your Cowboys on Monday night, but what they did above all else was to remind us that this thing can turn to cow flop at any second.

Which is more surprising — that the Cowboys are 6-2 today, or Romo has not missed any starts? Neither scenario seemed plausible in training camp.

As much fun as it has been to watch this team win, part of the perverse entertainment and fascination of watching the Cowboys this season has become Tony Romo’s Wild Ride. It’s more terrifying and thrilling than any ride at Six Flags.

All quarterbacks take hits and are susceptible to injury on every play, but there is no NFL passer right now encased in this type of doubt and fear and suspense every time he drops back to pass.

After a 6-1 start, all of us collectively began to feel that Romo was back, and the back was good. That he could take a hit.

Watching Romo lie flat on the field in the third quarter Monday night, we were reminded such confidence is foolish.

Listening to Romo’s words from training camp throughout the season, even he sounds like a man who knows his back is about as secure as a fault line. He has said “as long as it’s not the back” it’s good.

On Monday night after the game he said for the first time this season: “It was the back,” which was counter to the initial reports that it was his ribs.

“With the injury aspect of it,” Romo said, “you feel like you may have dodged one from that regard.”

Dodged one?

Every time Romo takes a hit we all feel like he is facing a firing squad of cannon balls and hope nothing hits.

Every time Romo pops up from a hit, we exhale and then order a round of the good stuff — Johnnie Walker Blue, because you never know when he’s going to take another shot.

I asked Cowboys owner Jerry Jones after the loss Monday night whether he felt good because he still has his quarterback.

“If he were out, I’d certainly have a lot different feelings standing here right now, if he had re-injured his back for the longer term this season,” Jerry said. “Right now, I don’t think that’s the case. That’s certainly better than it could have been.”

Given Jerry’s history with Romo, it’s a little surprising he didn’t give him another contract extension when the quarterback returned late in the fourth quarter.

Whatever you think of Romo, the man has stupid guts sometimes. Between playing with a punctured lung a few years ago in San Francisco, the herniated disk last year in Washington, or returning to the field Monday night, the desire to play is not some money-driven façade.

Watching him come back in the fourth quarter was his Willis Reed moment. Between his spin moves and flip passes, Romo can be wonderful theater.

And unlike Drew Brees, Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, every time Tony Romo drops back he is pushing it because none of those guys has a back like his.

As the Cowboys piled up wins, DeMarco Murray piled up yards and Romo simply managed games, we forgot that his situation is different than every other starter in the NFL.

The Redskins reminded us of that on Monday night.

This thing can go at any second, and there is nothing more thrilling, scary or intoxicating these days than Tony Romo’s Wild Ride.

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