Tony Romo, you are officially forgiven. In what will go down in one of the all-time performances by a Dallas Cowboys quarterback Romo led his team back from a 10 point 4th quarter deficit playing with cracked ribs. It wasn't just that Romo played. It was that every single breath he took after he cracked the ribs early in the game made him wince with pain. And he took all of the abuse in the media throughout the week after the 4th quarter melt down against the Jets last week.
The Cowboys did not play well in the 1st half. They were flat on offense and the defense just couldn't seem to get home on their blitzes as the 49ers built a 14-0 lead. Romo was under fire all game long and took shot after shot in the first half. But he was able to hit Miles Austin for a 53 yard touchdown late in the half to get the Cowboys back within striking distance.
But then coming out of the half we found out that Tony Romo would not be returning to the game. And the medical staff forced him to go back into the locker room. We were told he was out for the game with broken ribs. I started thinking about how the Cowboys could find a way to get to 2-2 heading into the bye week. I still felt the game was winnable with Kitna but the defense was going to have to step up.
The defense did step up and start making plays. Alan Ball came up with a big interception to set up a Kitna to Austin touchdown to tie up the game. Unfortunately Kitna followed that up with an interception on the next Cowboys possession to set up the 49ers for another score and a 21-14 lead.
And then Romo came back to save the day. His first possession went nowhere and gave the 49ers a short field that allowed them to hit a 55 yard field goal for a 10 point lead.
Trailing 24-14 I would normally feel like the Cowboys were in deep trouble. But with Romo playing the hero role and playing through the rib injury it just felt like they were destined to win the game. So with about 11 minutes to go the Cowboys got the ball back and it was Romo time. He just kept making plays and was hit on seemingly every single play. But he kept peeling himself off the ground in obvious pain and kept going.
While I would love to give all of the credit to Romo for the win you have to recognize several other things that helped out. First, Jon Kitna managed to give the game back to Romo exactly how he got it...with the Cowboys down 7. Miles Austin played lights out from the end of the 2nd quarter on. And the defense made the stops they needed to keep the Cowboys in the game. Most importantly, they got the ball back for the Cowboys in overtime to set the stage for the Jesse Holley play. Dan Bailey shanked a short field goal early in the game but nailed a 48 yarder as time expired to tie the game and then calmly hit from 19 to win the game.
Think about this. The Cowboys played without their top 2 cornerbacks. Dez Bryant was out. Felix Jones played hurt. Martellus Bennett played hurt. Phil Costa went out and Kevin Kowalski had to take over at center. Tony Romo played hurt. Miles Austin tweaked his hamstring and didn't play during overtime. The Cowboys were shorthanded on both sides of the ball. But they battled to the end and they won.
If you blamed Romo last week like I did you have to give him his due this week. He has earned a new level of respect from me. And I don't ever want to hear this ridiculous leadership debate about him again.
I also give a lot of credit to Jason Garrett. Early last year when Wade Phillips was the coach it always seemed like the team would fold when a top player went out with injury. But when someone gets hurt this year the next guy just steps in and makes plays. This team somehow seems more capable of overcoming injuries. I have to give the coach credit for that because he has everyone prepared to play.
Let's remember that this is only one game. But, wow, what a game it was. This is the type of game that will be a signature victory for Tony Romo. And it could be the start of something special this season. It feels like the Cowboys found their mojo today.