Romo scintillating as Cowboys upset Giants
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (left) gets away from Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., Sept. 5, 2012. (GARY HERSHORN/Reuters)
It started out like just about every other big game Tony Romo has ever played for the Dallas Cowboys.
Plenty of All Pro quality quarterbacking all undone by one spirit-killing, forehead-palmingly terrible play.
Romo did it again early in the NFL's season-opening game Wednesday night against the host New York Giants.
But he instantly overcame that what-the-hell-was-he-thinking blunder and was simply spectacular thereafter as the Cowboys upset the defending Super Bowl champions, 24-17, before a record Giants crowd of 82,287 at MetLife Stadium.
Romo's big gaffe occurred early in the second quarter with the game tied at zeros and the defences dominating.
He threw over the middle near midfield to Kevin Ogletree, who was covered in a curtain of Giants blue. An awful decision. New York linebacker Michael Boley intercepted the brain fart and returned it to the Dallas one-yard line.
But the Cowboys' stout defence pushed the Giants back to the 5 and forced a field goal.
Then, the All Pro-calibre QB in Romo took over the game.
He outshone his celebrated New York counterpart, Eli Manning. He even stole the thunder from both backfield mate DeMarco Murray, who on a workhorse night gained 131 yards on 20 carries, and the Cowboys defence, which shut down the Giants' attack for most of the game.
After his blunder, Romo completed 18 of his final 22 passes for 243 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions - and no more screw-ups.
"Whether you're playing in the parking lot or in Giants Stadium against the world champions," Romo told NBC afterward, "a quarterback must overcome the big mistakes.
"It's a big win," he later told reporters. "We put together a good plan."
For the game, Romo was 22-of-29 for 307 yards - a wicked passer rating of 129.5.
That's not all. How he did it that was just as impressive. No more deer-in-the-headlights Tony.
Romo looked like (for old-timers) Fran Tarkenton or (for the young 'uns) Cam Newton in the pocket. He was spinning, sliding and stutter-stepping time and again to avoid the heavy Giants pass rush, and then thread perfect passes, usually to Ogletree or Miles Austin.
Romo was 5-of-6 on Dallas' first scoring drive. The key play was a 38-yard strike to Dez Bryant down the right sideline after Romo bought himself more time by rolling right. Romo hit Ogletree from 10 yards out for the go-ahead TD.
Romo kept the hot hand to start the second half. From the New York 40, he hit Ogletree deep down the right side for a TD that broke the game open, 14-3.
Manning brought the Giants back, going 6-of-6 on a nine-play, 89-yard touchdown drive to close within 14-10.
Romo didn't flinch. He completed all three of his passes on a 65-yard drive that ended with a 33-yard Dan Bailey field goal.
Dallas extended its lead to 24-10 in the fourth quarter thanks to Romo's best drive of the night.
With his confidence now soaring, and the frustrated Giants pass rushers unable to get to him, Romo completed pass after pass, including a 10-yarder to Austin after Romo spun twice in the backfield to gain himself more time. A few plays later, Romo danced free and perfectly hit Austin breaking downfield for a 34-yard score.
Manning mustered only one Giants touchdown thereafter.
Up 24-17 with 2:11 left in the game, Dallas just needed one first down to seal the victory. On third down and 12 from their own 24, Romo was clutch - hitting Ogletree on a pass route that had burned the Giants defence all night long: a quick slant.
The Cowboys then ran out the clock.
Said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones afterward: "This becomes one of the highlights for me in my 24 years in the NFL."
Ogletree caught eight passes on the night for 114 yards and appears to be Romo's new go-to receiver.
"Trust doesn't come with one game, or one play," Ogletree said. "But we're going to continue to work and hopefully that relationship continues."
The replacement officials were a non-story, although Giants defenders felt hard done by.
"I haven't been held this much since I was a baby," linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said.
The Giants became the first defending Super Bowl champions in 13 years to lose their season opener.
"Taking a bite out of humble pie is what this is," Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said afterward.
Taking a bite out of his own "Romo sucks" reputation is what the Dallas quarterback did.