The return of Tony Romo didn’t need long to make its mark. The Dallas Cowboys are 3-0 with him starting at quarterback this season. Undefeated. Bound for the playoffs, maybe more. Too bad there were those seven games with Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden, which they lost.
The Cowboys won for the first time since September, beating the Miami Dolphins 24-14. They overcame Romo throwing two interceptions in a rusty return, but he also threw a couple of touchdown passes to Terrance Williams and Dez Bryant, while Darren McFadden ran for 129 yards. The defense played its part in making Ryan Tannehill look very bad (completing just 13-of-24, throwing two touchdown passes and one interception), returning a pick for a touchdown, courtesy of Rolando McClain.
The difference between the Cassel-Weeden failures and the Romo time is staggering. Romo was 5-of-9 on passes thrown 15 yards or more downfield, including the two touchdowns. They had just three touchdowns the entire time he was out on throws like that, which spans seven games. Romo was brilliant in the fourth quarter as well, going 4-of-5 with a touchdown while leading two scoring drives. The Cassel-Weeden duopoly lost 6 games in which they led or were tied at some point in the fourth quarter. With Romo, the Cowboys are 3-0 in that situation.
With all that being said, the Cowboys are still last place in the NFC East at 3-7. The playoffs are still very far from reach. They have the Panthers, undefeated, 10-0, coming to Dallas next week. It’s still a long shot overcoming 7 consecutive losses. Romo is also always open to more injuries. He was sacked two times by the Dolphins and took a few more hits, especially from Olivier Vernon, who was allowed to reach him too many times.
But the Cowboys have their swagger back, even if it’s a bit too late. There is no more struggle just to get the ball down the field for 10 yards at a time. It’s big gains, it’s big plays, it’s more than one player knowing he can get the ball. It opens up the running game, as McFadden had one of his best games of the season in what looks like a 1000-yard year for him. It gives the defense some room to breathe, knowing there’s an offense to back them up if they mess up. It makes the Cowboys good again. Problem is, it might be too late to fulfill their preseason aspirations.