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2013 NFL Grades, Week 16: Tony Romo flips the script

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

If you expected Tony Romo, working on a bad leg he injured on the crummy FedEx Field turf, to march down the field and convert a fourth down at the Redskins' goal line to give the Cowboys a critical December win, well, you're probably lying.

But Romo did just that, bucking the annoying narrative that's built over the past few years that he can't play the role of clutch quarterback when it counts. Romo, despite doing his best to help us fulfill a pre-prepared prophecy we won't let go, hit DeMarco Murray for a touchdown that gave the Cowboys a win in Washington and kept Dallas' playoff hopes very much alive.

The Eagles' performance on Sunday night is largely irrelevant. Dallas plays Philly in Week 17 with the NFC East on the line and a shot to make some noise in the postseason.

Romo wasn't at his finest on Sunday or anything; but he completed 63 percent of his passes and threw a pair of scores, none bigger than the toss to Murray.

It came after a play that was definitively Dallas -- Murray, on third and 1, ran the ball for minus-9 yards. That set up an almost impossible conversion to try and win the game. Romo, somehow, maintained his composure and found the running back open near the goal line.

There's a lot of season left for the Cowboys, and I've been saying for weeks that we're going to get a Week 17 drive to clinch a playoff spot with Romo holding the rock and the football world holding its breath. Who knows how he'll handle it.

But, for now, Romo flipped the narrative and helped the Cowboys live to see another day.

TeamGradeAnalysis
49ers 34, Falcons 24
B-For a four-win team, the Falcons gave a noble effort. They led 10-3 at the break, and after a quiet third quarter, scored 14 fourth-quarter points to cut the 49ers' lead to three. Then, with just over a minute to go, NaVorro Bowman's 89-yard pick-six happened. And as has been the case for much of the last four months, the result was a familiar one: Another loss for an Atlanta team that has been beset by injuries, bad luck and poor play for most of the season.
BMaybe the 49ers were distracted by the farewell-to-Candlestick Park pregame festivities. Whatever the reason, it took them two full quarters of football to get going. In the second half, Colin Kaepernick settled down and the running game found its grove, even if the defense struggled to stop Matt Ryan and the Falcons in the fourth quarter. Going forward, the 49ers will need to play better from start to finish if they're going to make a deep playoff run.
Eagles 54, Bears 11
FCrippling loss to send the NFC North to 0-4. The Bears got manhandled at every point in this game and never had a prayer. They can still win the division and make the playoffs but this defense is an absolute abomination.
AThe Eagles had nothing to play for and they still kept their starters in late as they bludgeoned the Bears in Philly. 289 rushing yards and LeSean McCoy all but locked up the rushing title. Fifty. Burger.
Cowboys 24, Redskins 23
C+It wasn't pretty and it wasn't easy but Tony Romo got it done and kept the Cowboys' hopes alive. He led the team down the field on a game-winning touchdown drive. In the fourth quarter. In December. DeMarco Murray keeps running the ball really well, too.
C-Pierre Garcon set the Redskins record for catches in a season and Kirk Cousins did some alright things. But the secondary -- perhaps the Redskins' biggest problem -- gave this game away late in heartbreaking fashion.
Cardinals 17, Seahawks 10
C-Ugly game for the Cardinals offense but the defense came up big for the Cards. Carson Palmer threw four picks and the running game never really got going. Please stop throwing the ball at Richard Sherman.
D-Russell Wilson lost his first home football game since October of 2010 (he lost that one to Tyrod Taylor!) and the Seahawks finally looked vulnerable in Seattle. The defense picked Carson Palmer four times but the offense struggled too much.
Giants 23, Lions 20
D+Did New York even want to win this game? The Lions gift-wrapped this one for the Giants and they begrudgingly took it from them. What an ugly game.
F-This game went to overtime so technically Detroit wasn't this bad, but losing an elimination game at home to the hapless Giants trotting out their backups? Talk about beyond embarrassing.
Patriots 41, Ravens 7
BNew England piled up a bunch of garbage points on the defensive end but ultimately clinched the AFC East on Sunday by manhandling the defending champs on the road.
FWoof. Joe Flacco looked bad with his busted knee, Ray Rice struggled again and the defense didn't do much other than celebrate when they were down 20. Huge egg by the Ravens.
Chargers 26, Raiders 13
C+The offense was kept out of the end zone in the second half (although they should've scored at the end of the game to cover ...) and the defense couldn't slow down the Chargers enough to keep this game competitive late.
B+San Diego struggled early but Philip Rivers came on strong in the second half. Ryan Mathews keeps establishing himself as a legit feature back. The defense shut down the Raiders in the second half and San Diego keeps their playoff hopes alive.
Steelers 38, Packers 31
B+MASSIVE win for Pittsburgh in an outstanding game to watch. Le'Veon Bell continues to impress and Antonio Brown might be the most underrated player in the NFL. Steelers keep their playoff hopes alive.
B-Green Bay stayed in this one thanks to a gift from the refs but Matt Flynn was still not completely terrible the entire time and nearly gave Green Bay a win. Now they need help from Chicago to make the playoffs.
Bills 19, Dolphins 0
FWhat a complete egg by the Dolphins, who controlled their own playoff destiny heading into this game. They didn't score a single point against the Bills and allowed Thaddeus Lewis to beat them for the second time this season. Ryan Tannehill averaged 3 yards per attempt and was knocked out of the game. Oof.
B+Strong effort to shut out a divisional opponent and play the role of spoiler. Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller ran all over the Dolphins defense. The Bills smothered Ryan Tannehill and kept the Dolphins offense from doing anything all day.
Panthers 17, Saints 13
B-New Orleans fought through the weather and looked like it might win this one, but for an epic drive from Cam Newton spoiled a nice late effort for Drew Brees. Brees made some critical mistakes but was good late. The Saints defense bottled up the Panthers for about 58 minutes.
BUnderwhelming offensive effort for the Panthers until Cam Newton's final drive. But he put on his big-boy pants and marched the Panthers toward a shot at an NFC South title Sunday. The defense turned the Saints over a few critical times. Thomas Davis keeps building on an incredibly inspiring story.
Bengals 42, Vikings 14
D-Matt Cassel turned the rock over, Adrian Peterson couldn't get rolling and the Vikings never really had a chance in this one outside the first quarter. They got steamrolled by a much, much better team.
B+Cincy mauled the Vikings in a game they had to win and, maybe, dominate. Andy Dalton was tossing the ball around and the defense was generating points on turnovers. This is the type of game Cincy needed to right the ship.
Broncos 37, Texans 13
BBig road win to set up Denver's shot at securing homefield advantage. Peyton Manning broke the single-season record for touchdown passes with 51, Knowshon Moreno kept piling on yardage and the Broncos showed how to properly close out a football team.
C-What a terrible pick by Matt Schaub -- the fourth-quarter interception opened the floodgates for Manning and Denver. J.J. Watt keeps playing well but the Broncos piled on the points as the Texans kept their losing streak alive.
Titans 20, Jaguars 16
C+Solid rushing game for Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene. Ryan Fitzpatrick made a big throw late to Nate Washington to give the Titans the game and also secure second place in the AFC South. What a terrible divison.
C-Decent enough effort from Jacksonville. Bonus points for throwing the ball to Brad Meester! Maurice Jones-Drew couldn't do much in what could've been his final home game in Jacksonville.
Colts 23, Chiefs 7
A-Andrew Luck did great work with little help, Donald Brown ran the ball well (Trent Richardson ran not terribly, too?) and the Colts manhandled the Chiefs at Arrowhead.
D-Jamaal Charles is a monster, but that's about the only positive thing you can say for the Chiefs after this one. Losing to a possible first-round playoff opponent at home when you're trying to keep up hope to hop Denver isn't a good look.
Jets 24, Browns 13
C-This Browns defense shouldn't be letting this Jets offense move the ball and put up points they way they did. Edwin Baker and Jason Campbell, surprisingly, couldn't get it done on the offensive end of things.
C+Efficient game from Geno Smith and nice rushing effort from Chris Ivory. Defense bottled up a bad offense and got Rex Ryan a critical win as he pushes to try and keep his job.
Rams 23, Bucs 13
D+Brutal looking game for Mike Glennon and Bobby Rainey. Couldn't get anything going on offense. The defense couldn't stop the Rams, either.
BAnother week, another 100-yard effort for Zac Stacy. Kellen Clemens only had four incompletions, which is not good for the Bucs defense. The Rams defense shut down Tampa Bay.
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