It's hard to think of a half of football that has had more lingering impact over the Cowboys than the second half of their loss to the Lions.
The way they lost, the timing of the bye week and, for many, the lingering distrust of Tony Romo turned those 30 minutes into something so much bigger. It has been discussed from every concievable angle and just about everyone has concluded that the Cowboys need to rein in Romo if they are going to avoid watching him give away another lead in the waning moments of a game and win often enough to make a playoff run.
A fair conclusion, but it isn't one that figures to work out for them against the Patriots. There's been plenty of theorizing about how the Cowboys are going to stop the New England offense -- big pass rush, Sean Lee on the tight ends, stop Wes Welker at all costs -- but the truth is that the Pats are going to score and they are probably going to score in the neighborhood of 30 points.
That means the Cowboys are going to have to put up some points of their own if they are going to come away winners. The easy counterpoint to that offense shouldn't be a problem. The Patriots defense isn't very good and offers plenty of opportunities to light up a scoreboard.
That's true, but it isn't like they just lay down and let you stomp your way to the end zone. Against the Jets last weekend, the Patriots loaded up to stop the run and succeeded. They left themselves open to attack through the air, but the Jets refused to do that because they were scared of what might go wrong when Mark Sanchez put the ball into the air. As a result, the Jets avoided turnovers but they also avoided the kind of big plays you need to make to keep pace with Tom Brady.
No matter how scary it is to see Tony Romo dropping back to throw a pass right now, the Cowboys can't fall into the same trap. Establishing a strong ground game is essential, but the Patriots can beat a one-dimensional offense. Taking unnecessary risks should be avoided, but that's not the same thing as being so risk averse that your offense becomes a conservative, vanilla attack that doesn't pressure every part of the field.
That might avoid turnovers, but it isn't going to win you the game. At some point on Sunday, the Cowboys are going to have to let Romo be Romo and take whatever comes. You have Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten and the only way to make use of their many talents is by letting Romo rear back and let the ball fly.
It's funny that the Cowboys would find themselves in that situation in their first game after Romo became a synonym for the word meltdown, but that's where they are. It might not be enough to bring him redemption for past sins, but it might just be enough to get the Cowboys the win.