Tony Romo does all he can for Cowboys; love it, don’t hate it

Save it, haters. Get a clue.

If you’re stressing the negative on Tony Romo, I’m not sure what game you watched Sunday. It certainly wasn’t the epic game of this NFL season. It certainly wasn’t Romo’s greatness being the only reason why the Dallas Cowboys even had a chance to trip up the unblemished Denver Broncos.

Frankly, I feel for you if this is what you’re punctuating.

The score was tied at 48, and Dallas had the ball at its own 14-yard line just before the 2-minute warning. Romo dropped back to pass on second-and-16, and his throw was off the mark, picked off by Danny Trevathan. It was a brilliant defensive play.

Yet cue the refrain. Twitter nearly exploded. “Classic Romo in a big spot,” the haters cried. And yes, sadly, Romo did nothing to add to the “yeah, but” attached to his career. Tony Romo is a franchise quarterback, “yeah, but” he seemingly plays his worst when it matters the most.

But let’s not confuse things. Let’s not get it twisted.

If Romo was ordinary, Dallas would’ve lost by 20 points. If he put up just the strong numbers I projected in Thursday’s Schein Nine column, the Cowboys would’ve lost by 10.

But Romo did what an opposing quarterback had not done all season: He outplayed Peyton Manning. A lights-out performance from its QB is the only way a team can beat the Broncos, and that’s what Romo delivered. It cannot, it should not, it will not be overlooked, even though Dallas lost 51-48.

Romo threw for 506 yards, just 48 short of tying Norm Van Brocklin’s NFL single-game passing record. It also was the first 500-yard passing game in Cowboys history. If you’re not aware, that history is long and storied. Romo is just the fifth quarterback in league history to throw for 500 yards and five touchdowns in a game.

Yeah, blame Romo. What is this, amateur hour?

I explained this offseason why it was brilliant for the Cowboys to reward Romo with a six-year, $108 million contract extension in March. When you go through the list of what’s right with Dallas, it starts with Romo. Is he perfect? Absolutely not. Is he on the same “elite” level as Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees? Nope. But Romo clearly is on that next level of quarterbacks you can build a franchise around.

Just imagine if Romo played on a team with a top-flight defense or coach.

Monte Kiffin’s 27th-ranked defense couldn’t stop Manning on Sunday. The jury is still out on whether or not it was a good call to bring in Kiffin and his Tampa 2 system with the personnel Dallas has. Let’s not gloss over the final score: The Broncos put up 51 points.

It’s also very easy to argue — factoring in time, score and timeouts — that Jason Garrett should’ve let Denver score a touchdown after Romo’s pick to give Dallas’ offense a chance to get the ball back. I certainly was yelling at Garrett to do so. This is the same coach who’s had major issues with game and clock management and no longer calls the Cowboys’ plays, reflective of his poor work in that area.

So Romo doesn’t get any help from his defense. He doesn’t get any help from his coach. And Jerry Jones’ oddly constructed Cowboys are 2-3, tied for first place in the horrid NFC East.

Romo is a top-10 NFL quarterback with whom you absolutely can win a championship. He ended the Broncos‘ 15-game streak of winning by seven or more points, which is significant. CBS broadcast the game to the entire country, making it a “big spot.” If only Romo had a little help from his friends.

The haters call it a vintage Romo performance. But it underscores why I feel horrible for him.

Sorry, haters. You missed a great game and a truly great performance.

Dallas has problems. The quarterback isn’t one of them.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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