The Dallas Cowboys are far from perfect and they’re certainly not Super Bowl contenders at this point, but after a 27-24 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 15, Dallas is a playoff contender, at least mathematically. Contrary to popular belief, that wouldn’t be possible without the heroic play of Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (yes, “heroic” and “Romo” were just used in the same sentence).
He’s been blamed for any and every failure of the Cowboys’ since the botched snap against the Seattle Seahawks in 2006 and some of them were deserved, but Romo can no longer be blamed for Dallas’ agonizing mediocrity. His performance against the Steelers is a perfect example.
Before the game, no quarterback had thrown for 300 or more passing yards against the Steelers–the team with the NFL‘s top defense–in 21 games. In fact, none had thrown for even 200 yards against Pittsburgh in the Steelers’ past eight games. Romo bucked the trend, completing 30 of 42 passes (71%) for 341 and a pair of scores. However, the most important stats were the ones Romo didn’t make.
Sure, throwing for nearly 350 yards and two touchdowns against the Steelers is definitely something to brag about, but doing that while not throwing any interceptions or turning the ball over in any fashion is quite an accomplishment for a quarterback like Romo. Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett called five pass plays on third down in the game and only one was converted for a first down. Two others were caught, but tackled short of the marker. The key stat, though, is the fact Romo only dropped back five times on third down. That’s very unusual for this 2012 Dallas team.
Romo’s completion percentage was 71, but 40 of his 42 passes were right on the money. Some were broken up and others dropped, but he delivered 95% of his throws right where they needed to be, which is also an unusual number for Cowboys fans to digest.
Although he was only sacked once in the game (another shocker, I know) and Dallas’ offensive line played way above its talent, it wasn’t all because of the big boys up front. Romo did his best Ben Roethlisberger impersonation while pump-faking and dodging pass-rushers in the pocket. Dallas fans are probably picturing him doing that right before taking a sack, fumbling or throwing the ball into double coverage, but that never happened against Pittsburgh.
If the Cowboys can keep running back DeMarco Murray healthy and actually make upgrades to the offensive line for 2013, Dallas might actually make some noise in the NFC playoffs after all the injured defensive starters return. All things considered, the Cowboys aren’t lucky to be where they are now–they have Romo to thank.