22-for-36, 255 yards, 0 touchdowns, 1 interception.
Where does this stat line belong among the best games Tony Romo has ever played?
One of my friends put it best (albeit crudely), saying, "Tony Romo is working his **** off in this game."
That's the truth. This game was a grind. Romo fought through bad snaps and wrong pass routes. He dealt with dropped passes and his cracked ribs. There were a few plays where it looked like he was doing the work of all 11 guys on offense. It was an ugly game; it was boring. But it was a win. And the Cowboys are 2-1.
Romo was a coach on the field. On one play, the ESPN broadcast showed a replay where Romo was directing three different receivers where to line up on a play inside the 10-yard line. He was yelling at his center Phil Costa after yet another premature snap. He was telling Kevin Ogletree where he should have gone after he made another wrong read on a pass route. Romo worked his butt off, and it paid off. Statistically, this game was a below average for him. But all things considered, it might have been one of his best.
Dan Bailey has made watching field goal attempts boring, and that's good. I watched the game on TV with my wife and a couple friends, and after his third field goal (the 41-yarder), I noticed that none of us were watching the field goal attempt very closely; we were assuming what most NFL fans assume when a kicker lines up to try a 41-yard field goal indoors: that it's going in. That is a luxury Cowboy fans did not have last year. Bailey will be overlooked this week, just like he was overlooked a week ago after drilling a 48-yarder at the end of regulation to tie the game in San Francisco. And that's fine, because kickers are generally boring. Nobody cares about kickers until they miss. Hopefully, Bailey will continue to bore us to death the rest of the year.
Sean Lee is becoming a star. He's second in the league in tackles, and he has two picks and two fumble recoveries in the first three games. He recovered the ball on Anthony Spencer's sack-fumble to kill off Washington's last chance to come back. A year ago, when the Cowboys drafted Lee in the second round, they felt like they were able to get first-round talent in the second round because of Lee's injury history. He certainly looks like a first-rounder now ... and not the Bobby Carpenter kind either.
Felix Jones broke out for a big game: 14 carries, 115 yards. He passed the eye test too -- if you were watching the game, you saw that burst he showed during his rookie year in 2008, and at other times during his brief career with the Cowboys. Apparently it's hard to show a burst when there's no hole to burst through, which was the problem the first two games.
At the end of the day, it all comes back to Romo. During training camp, he talked about this team being one that would improve every week. They will be better in week 4 than they were in week 1, and better in week 8 than in week 4. That needs to be true if this team is going to do anything, because right now, they're not very good. But in this NFL, there are a few "haves," a few "have-nots," and a bunch of teams in the middle. The Cowboys are in the middle, but if they can beat those other teams in the middle (like the Redskins), they can get their 10 wins and try their luck in the playoffs.
I said before the season started that the best teams in the NFL have a great quarterback/head coach combination. The Cowboys are 2-1, and it starts with Romo and Jason Garrett. Where it ends will depend a lot on the rest of the players and coaches.
Notes: Romo's streak of 20 consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass ended ... the Cowboys now have a 6-35 record in games in which they did not score a touchdown ... the Cowboys lead the league with 13 sacks through three games (DeMarcus Ware leads individually with five) ... Dan Bailey tied a rookie record with six field goals in a game.