BY: Geoff Magliocchetti
If that was the final pass Tony Romo will throw this season, what a way to end 2013.
Romo threw a 10 yard touchdown pass to RB DeMarco Murray on 4th and Goal with 1:08 to go, giving the Cowboys (8-7) a 24-23 victory over the Washington Redskins. With the Philadelphia Eagles obliterating the Chicago Bears 54-11 later that night, it became a season saving victory for the Cowboys, who have set themselves in another de facto NFC East championship game situation, as they will face the Eagles at AT&T Stadium in the final game of the NFL season.
Romo’s heroics were almost derailed by another Dallas 2nd half collapse. Against the woeful Redskins, who fell to 3-12, the Cowboys took a 14-6 halftime lead thanks to a 3 yard run by Murray (set up by replacement punt returner Michael Spurlock’s 62 yard return) and Romo’s 14 yard pass to Dez Bryant. Washington got their points via two Kai Forbath field goals.
However, a disastrous 3rd quarter brought back ghosts of last week’s collapse against the Packers. Dallas had the ball to start the half, but FB Tyler Clutts’s fumble set up an 8 yard hook up between Pierre Garçon and Kirk Cousins to shrink the Dallas lead to 14-13. The lead completely evaporated when a Romo interception to DeAngelo Hall set up a 4 run by Alfred Morris. After a Dallas punt, the defense looked to be forcing Washington into a three and out but a late hit by JJ Wilcox gave Washington an opportunity to extend their drive which culminated in another Forbath field goal that opened the 4th quarter.
After a solid 15 play 73 yard drive ended in a short Dan Bailey field goal, the Dallas defense showed a rare moment of clarity and stopped the Redskins, giving the Cowboys the ball back on their own 13 yard line with 3:39 to go. With the help of two huge receptions by rookie WR Terrence Williams, including a 51 yard catch that put Dallas in Washington territory. With 2:16 to go and Washington’s timeouts dwindling, Dallas found themselves on the Washington 4. 3 consecutive hand offs to Murray proved fruitless, in fact only pushing them back to the 10. With the season hanging in the balance, Romo escaped pressure and eventually found Murray to his right for the game winning score, giving Dallas the win and a perfect 5-0 mark on in the NFC East. They also avenged last season’s sweep at the hands of the Redskins.
Romo ended the day 17-27 for 226 yards with 2 TD’s and one pick, but ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Romo will be out for next Sunday night’s game and any other games the Cowboys may have this season with a back injury, revealed in an MRI on Monday. Romo appeared to be limping after escaping a Robb Jackson sack, extending the play and eventually picking up a first down. Head coach Jason Garrett, who appears to be fighting for the jobs of his staff, not to mention his own, was slightly more hopeful, not ruling Romo out though he had mentioned that back up QB Kyle Orton, who has thrown 5 passes this season, will be ready.
Despite the though Romo news, the Cowboys kept their season alive by sweeping the hated Redskins. The Cowboys moved to 3-0 all time when Murray carries the ball 20 or more times, as the back ran 22 times for 96 yards and a score. Despite missing out on a 100 yard day, Murray became the first Dallas back since Julius Jones to tally a 1,000 yard season. Williams, who was not practicing as late as Wednesday, had 4 receptions for 84 yards, while Bryant recovered from the PR disaster last week by picking up 4 catches for 73 yards and a score. The infamous Dallas defense even had a respectable game, allowing only 297 for the Redskins and allowing Washington to go just 7-16 on 3rd down.
For all the criticism the Cowboys have faced this season, they again find themselves alive in the final week of the season, headed into a do or die game with a divisional rival. And while it’s a shame Romo may not be there for a chance to silence his haters at home, the much maligned QB, saddled with a season ending injury, kept Dallas’s season alive. Short of winning a Super Bowl, what more can you ask of the guy?