It was the best of Tony. It was the worst of Tony. Something about the Detroit Lions that brings out polar performances from the Cowboys’ quarterback.
If both critics and fans of Romo were to be asked to put together a highlight reel to support their feelings, both would lurch for game film involving Sunday’s opponent at Ford Field.
The year was 2007, and No. 9 was at his best. Haters like to forget this one, but Romo came through in the clutch in a pulsating 28-27 victory over the Lions in Detroit.
After trailing 27-14 entering the fourth quarter, the Cowboys were behind by six with the ball at their 17, no timeouts and 2:15 remaining. It wasn’t exactly Staubachian, but Romo converted two fourth downs and drove Dallas inside Detroit’s 20. And on 2nd-and-6 from the 16, he fired a perfectly placed dart between Jason Witten’s 8 and 2 for the game-winning touchdown with only 18 seconds remaining.
All was right in the world. The Cowboys improved to 12-1 for the first time in franchise history and clinched the NFC East.
Romo finished 35 of 44 for 302 yards and two touchdowns, further clearing his path to 4,200 yards, a Pro Bowl appearance and his place alongside Brett Favre as the top two quarterbacks in the NFC.
Said head coach Wade Phillips at the time, “Tony’s playing about as good at the quarterback position as you can possibly play.”
The year was 2011, and No. 9 was at his worst. Fans like to forget this one, but Romo failed miserably in the second half of a depressing 34-30 loss to the Lions in Arlington.
Behind two touchdown passes to Dez Bryant, one to Witten and a 13-of-14 start marred only by a clock-killing incompletion, Romo surged the Cowboys to a commanding 27-3 lead early in the third quarter. What transpired next was not only one of Romo’s worst halves of football, but also the biggest blown lead in Cowboys’ franchise history.
It started with an interception – still wonder why he was throwing the ball with a 24-point lead? – returned for a touchdown by former Dallas draft bust Bobby Carpenter. Then another on the Cowboys’ next possession, this one returned by Chris Houston. And, finally, trying to nurse a 3-point lead with four minutes remaining, Romo was picked again to set up Matthew Stafford’s game-winning touchdown to Calvin Johnson.
Romo finished 34 of 47 for 331 yards, all erased by his three fatal flings.
“This one really, really hurts,” he said after the game. “I feel like I cost my team an opportunity to win this game.”
The year is 2013. Romo plays the Lions Sunday. Who knows?
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He currently writes a sports/guy stuff blog at DFWSportatorium.com and lives in McKinney with his fiancee, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.