There was something different about these Dallas Cowboys and specifically about Tony Romo all season long. A 42-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts, so bad they benched Andrew Luck in the middle of the game, put them in the playoff after a four year absence, immediately raising the hopes and expectations for things to come.
The celebrations after the win as the Cowboys improved to 11-4 and clinched the division title of the NFC East for the first time since 2009 were a bit more than your usual ‘we just made the playoffs’ event. The most famous franchise in the NFL and the one that gets more attention than anyone else no matter what happens has been living under the label of failure and underachieving for the last four years. No one felt it harder than Romo and head coach Jason Garrett, who got the Gatorade shower in the end.
The Cowboys started out with a drive that went nowhere but a penalty call changed all of that. With the help of some gracious penalty call (taunting) on the first drive to a touchdown, Romo found Terrance Williams for the first score. The Colts kept bashing their head at a wall with Andrew Luck ending his performance with two interceptions and just 109 passing yards. The Cowboys kept on scoring. Three-and-out kept happening to the Colts, who got their opening first down of the game after the Cowboys already had 17.
By the time the Colts scored their first and only points of the game, the Cowboys held a 42-0 lead. Romo left the field before it was all over, completing 18-of-20 passes for 218 yards and four touchdowns. Jason Witten, Dez Bryant with his 14th of the season (new career high) and Cole Beasley all enjoyed the accurate throwing of Romo, who had plenty of time from his blockers to make the throws, becoming the all-time passing yards leader for the franchise, and notched his sixth game this season of 135.0 or better in passer rating.
Brandon Weeden got a chance to throw one pass, a 43-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams in garbage time. It was Matt Hasselbeck with the touchdown pass for the Colts, presenting the darker side of theirs – a team that dominated in the AFC South, but seemed to fall and fail against every other alleged Super Bowl contender. The running game that didn’t exist with one yard on 10 carries, the drops, something they do more than anyone else in the NFL, and eventually a defense that looked like it had given up.
DeMarco Murray played with a banged up arm. The Colts managed to slow him down, but Murray still got some big first downs and scored a touchdown. Both Julius Randle and even Tony Romo with a couple of impressive spin moves and jukes got the chains going when necessary, leading to 127 rushing yards. The numbers didn’t matter. The touchdowns the Cowboys seemed to be putting up on the boards with ease made the difference.
This was probably the first time this season that the Dallas Cowboys had a defensive performance to match its offense, and it had nothing to do with managing the clock or running the ball. The Colts played badly and the defense took every opportunity their opponents gave them. If the Cowboys are actually going to make a legitimate run at the title and last in these playoffs for more than one game, it’ll be about their defense matching the ability of Romo, Murray, Bryant and the offense.