ARLINGTON, Texas — A wry grin broke out on Tony Romo’s face when asked to describe what happened on his spectacular touchdown pass Sunday night.
“I would normally ask you which one,” Romo joked after the Dallas Cowboys’ 31-16 win over the NFC East rival Washington Redskins, “but I think I know.”
Yep, there was only one, just a lone flash of brilliance from Romo. And the Cowboys won anyway.
After a week of discussion about how much blame he deserved for a loss in which he threw for five touchdowns and broke the franchise record for passing yards, Romo didn’t need to be a superhero to give the Dallas Cowboys a chance to beat the Redskins.
Not with a defense that had been dreadful the previous two weeks bending but not breaking, giving up 433 total yards but only allowing Washington into the end zone once. Not on a night that Dwayne Harris produced more yardage on returns than the Cowboys did on offense, scoring on an 86-yard punt return and setting up a touchdown with a 90-yard kickoff return.
Dwayne Harris returned a punt 86 yards for a touchdown and also had a 90-yard kickoff return.
“Dwayne did a great job and almost allowed us to kind of just sit over there as an offensive unit and rack up all his yards as if we did it without doing much work,” Romo said.
Romo’s work for the night: 18-of-30 for 170 yards and a touchdown with an interception. For his fantasy football owners, it was Romo’s worst performance of the season, not that any of the Dallas Cowboys were complaining.
Maybe the football gods owed Romo one after he ended up being the goat despite one of the greatest statistical performances in NFL history during the previous week’s shootout loss to the Denver Broncos. The Dallas defense definitely owed Romo one.
“Last week, the defense lost the game by not being able to get a stop,” said linebacker Sean Lee, who led the Cowboys with 10 tackles, including a touchdown-saving stop of Robert Griffin III on the Redskins’ first series. “When your offense plays as well as it does, putting up 48 points, and Tony plays as well as he did, you have to win those games if you want to be a good team, if you want to win Super Bowls. The defense let everybody down. We knew it, and we knew we had to find a way to bounce back this week.”
The reality is this kind of win is rare. The Cowboys usually need their franchise quarterback with the nine-figure contract to play up to his paycheck to be in position to pull out a victory.
That could be especially true over the next few weeks if injuries that knocked running back DeMarco Murray and defensive end DeMarcus Ware out of the game linger. Murray suffered a sprained MCL in his left knee; Ware strained his quadriceps. Their statuses for next week’s game in Philadelphia are uncertain.
The Dallas running game is a rumor without Murray. That’s evident by the 19 yards on 12 carries the other tailbacks generated against the Redskins.
The pass rush had been a problem even with Ware coming off the edge. The Cowboys managed to get three sacks and pressure Griffin several other times Sunday night, but it’s a stretch to see that happening consistently if Ware isn’t a major factor.
All of which means the Cowboys could be asking Romo to put up big numbers without the benefit of a balanced offense.
With road trips to Philadelphia and Detroit coming up, it’s probably a safe assumption that the Cowboys will need the spectacular version of Romo to return back home over .500.
They’ll need more plays like the only pass he completed in the third quarter, when he somehow made a clean-blitzing cornerback miss before perfectly dropping the ball to Terrance Williams in the back corner of the end zone for a 15-yard score, stretching Dallas’ lead to double digits.
“He shows that ability really on a consistent basis, week in and week out,” coach Jason Garrett said. “But I tell you what, that was a heck of a play.”
Added owner/general manager Jerry Jones: “That throw he made to 83 in the end zone after getting flushed out, that’s his A game.”
On this night, a flash of that was enough for the Cowboys. That’s reason to smile, an exception to the rule.