It’s been asked before, it will be posed again, and it was relevant after Dallas hosted the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants at Cowboys Stadium this past Sunday.
Is Tony Romo an elite quarterback, or merely a very good one? The jury is still out, but the one-time undrafted signal-caller out of Eastern Illinois was left holding the bag after throwing for 437 yards, but also tossing four interceptions as the Cowboys (3-4) could not overcome a 23-point deficit before staging a marvelous comeback that fell just short 29-24.
What’s frustrating about Romo, who has a strong arm and is clever and agile enough to avoid would-be tacklers, is that there are glimpses of sheer genius.
It’s not uncommon for Romo to somehow get out of trouble by scrambling and buying time until he locates an open receiver.
Then there is the ugly Romo, who when the protection breaks down and the defense is about to pounce, tries to do too much, sometimes even throwing into double and triple coverage.
On the game’s next-to-last play, Romo (36 of 62 attempts) heaved the football downfield and spotted wide receiver Dez Bryant (110 yards and five receptions) in the end zone for an apparent game-winning score.
But the replays showed Bryant’s fingers were slightly out of bounds, and the play was nullified.
Romo had one more deep throw left that sailed into a mass of humanity, but the ball wasn’t caught by any Dallas receiver that included Miles Austin (133 yards and nine catches) or tight end Jason Witten (167 yards and 18 receptions).
Another example of Romo’s wasted energy was his 307-yard passing effort in a 34-18 setback to the defensive-minded Chicago Bears because it came with five picks and one scoring pass.
Now let’s look at what Romo did well against the Giants (11 first downs and 293 total net yards).
When running back Felix Jones (19 yards on 13 carries) scored from four yards out with 5:22 left in the second quarter, Romo directed the Cowboys 72 yards on eight plays.
Romo set up Dan Bailey’s 51-yard field goal late in the same quarter by marching Dallas 55 yards on six plays to get within 23-10.
Romo’s one-yard bootleg around right end with 9:16 showing in the third quarter capped off a 66-yard, 11-play drive and made it a six-point deficit, and his one-yard scoring pass to John Phillips with 3:43 showing in the third quarter gave the Cowboys (434 total yards and 28 first downs) a 24-23 lead.
Romo’s counterpart was Eli Manning (15 of 29 for 192 yards), a two-time NFL champ, who didn’t throw a touchdown, and was intercepted once.
The Giants (6-2) opened the scoring with Lawrence Tynes converting a 41-yard effort with 11:53 left in the first quarter, followed by a 37-yarder with 7:11 showing for a 6-0 lead. Andre Brown’s one-yard plunge made it 13-0 with 3:41 left.
Tynes added a 26-yard boot early in the second quarter to make it 16-0, and with 13:05 showing, lineman Jason Pierre-Paul picked off Romo and darted 28 yards for the score to make it 23-0.
Tynes was also successful on field goal attempts of 43 and 37 yards in the fourth quarter.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.