Romo flushes away past with big-time performance

ARLINGTON, Texas — Tony Romo’s first two playoff starts ended with a chance for him to win the game with the ball in his hands. Neither, as it has been well-documented around these parts, worked in Dallas’ favor.
 
Three years ago in Seattle, it was the infamous botched hold on a late field-goal attempt in what became a 21-20 wild-card loss to the Seahawks. Two years ago, favored at home as the NFC’s top seed against the Giants in the divisional playoffs, a Romo-led last-gasp drive fell short in a 21-17 loss to the eventual Super Bowl champions. 

If Tony Romo isn't meeting his high standards, he has to at least be approaching them with his recent play.
If Tony Romo isn’t meeting his high standards, he has to at least be approaching them with his recent play.

In Romo’s third career postseason start, however, he didn’t need to do anything on the final play — except take a knee — in the Cowboys’ dominant 34-14 wild-card win over division-rival Philadelphia. There weren’t mistakes to overcome or a late deficit to try to erase.
 
Now his teammates don’t need to hope he comes through for them. Now it’s a matter of making sure they come through for him.
 
"Tony’s always had a high standard whenever he plays," tight end Jason Witten said. "I think he’s always putting pressure on himself to be the best he can be.
 
"I don’t think there’s anyone in this locker room who’s evaluated himself in the past couple years like he has. To see him play the way he is, he’s just a leader. As he goes, we go."
 
Most quarterbacks would have taken Romo’s first half against the Eagles (17-for-27, 203 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions) as an exceptional output for an entire playoff game. He just picked up where he left off in Week 17, picking apart the Eagles’ pass defense, spreading the ball around to eight receivers while consistently moving the ball for a 27-7 lead at halftime.
 
"They did a good job of buying time in the pocket for Romo, making sure he had time to convert," Eagles linebacker Will Witherspoon said of the Cowboys’ diverse, efficient offense. "He just makes things happen."
 
It’s easy to forget that Romo just finished his third full season as Dallas’ starter. In 2006, he immediately raised expectations about his potential, showing dazzling ability as a young passer and skilled athlete.
 
He was an instant star on the field and became a celebrity off it, but the reality was he still needed time to develop as a complete quarterback and capable team leader.
 
"He took a lot of heat," Witten said. "I’m so proud for him to experience that — not just the win but the way he’s winning. He’s playing, creating so much and not turning over the football."
 
For most teams, his rate of steady progress over three years would have been perfectly acceptable. But playing in Dallas, for America’s Team, where the playoff win drought had nearly hit a decade before Romo even threw his first pass for the team, time wasn’t on his side. 

So now that Romo has his first career playoff win, the expectations will be there for him to get his second win next weekend even though the Cowboys will be the underdogs.
 
Romo, who grew up and played high school football in Wisconsin, has his next obstacle at Minnesota — where he will be asked to outduel his boyhood idol, former Packer Brett Favre, in the hostile environment of the Metrodome.
 
"They present a great challenge," Romo said of the Vikings. "Watching them on tape, they are very good at home — and that’s something we’re going to have to account for."

This story appears in Jan. 10’s edition of Sporting News Today. If you are not receiving Sporting News Today, the only daily digital sports newspaper, sign up today for free.

Vinnie Iyer is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at viyer@sportingnews.com.

ARLINGTON, Texas — Tony Romo’s first two playoff starts ended with a chance for him to win the game with the ball in his hands. Neither, as it has been well-documented around these parts, worked in Dallas’ favor.
 
Three years ago in Seattle, it was the infamous botched hold on a late field-goal attempt in what became a 21-20 wild-card loss to the Seahawks. Two years ago, favored at home as the NFC’s top seed against the Giants in the divisional playoffs, a Romo-led last-gasp drive fell short in a 21-17 loss to the eventual Super Bowl champions. 

If Tony Romo isn't meeting his high standards, he has to at least be approaching them with his recent play.
If Tony Romo isn’t meeting his high standards, he has to at least be approaching them with his recent play.

In Romo’s third career postseason start, however, he didn’t need to do anything on the final play — except take a knee — in the Cowboys’ dominant 34-14 wild-card win over division-rival Philadelphia. There weren’t mistakes to overcome or a late deficit to try to erase.
 
Now his teammates don’t need to hope he comes through for them. Now it’s a matter of making sure they come through for him.
 
"Tony’s always had a high standard whenever he plays," tight end Jason Witten said. "I think he’s always putting pressure on himself to be the best he can be.
 
"I don’t think there’s anyone in this locker room who’s evaluated himself in the past couple years like he has. To see him play the way he is, he’s just a leader. As he goes, we go."
 
Most quarterbacks would have taken Romo’s first half against the Eagles (17-for-27, 203 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions) as an exceptional output for an entire playoff game. He just picked up where he left off in Week 17, picking apart the Eagles’ pass defense, spreading the ball around to eight receivers while consistently moving the ball for a 27-7 lead at halftime.
 
"They did a good job of buying time in the pocket for Romo, making sure he had time to convert," Eagles linebacker Will Witherspoon said of the Cowboys’ diverse, efficient offense. "He just makes things happen."
 
It’s easy to forget that Romo just finished his third full season as Dallas’ starter. In 2006, he immediately raised expectations about his potential, showing dazzling ability as a young passer and skilled athlete.
 
He was an instant star on the field and became a celebrity off it, but the reality was he still needed time to develop as a complete quarterback and capable team leader.
 
"He took a lot of heat," Witten said. "I’m so proud for him to experience that — not just the win but the way he’s winning. He’s playing, creating so much and not turning over the football."
 
For most teams, his rate of steady progress over three years would have been perfectly acceptable. But playing in Dallas, for America’s Team, where the playoff win drought had nearly hit a decade before Romo even threw his first pass for the team, time wasn’t on his side. 

So now that Romo has his first career playoff win, the expectations will be there for him to get his second win next weekend even though the Cowboys will be the underdogs.
 
Romo, who grew up and played high school football in Wisconsin, has his next obstacle at Minnesota — where he will be asked to outduel his boyhood idol, former Packer Brett Favre, in the hostile environment of the Metrodome.
 
"They present a great challenge," Romo said of the Vikings. "Watching them on tape, they are very good at home — and that’s something we’re going to have to account for."

This story appears in Jan. 10’s edition of Sporting News Today. If you are not receiving Sporting News Today, the only daily digital sports newspaper, sign up today for free.

Vinnie Iyer is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at viyer@sportingnews.com.

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