|Tony Romo's wild fluctuations in play and Jason Garrett's decision-making are killing Dallas. (US Presswire)|
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The game began where we have seen many Dallas Cowboys games start: on a Romocoaster toward disaster.
It ended, literally, on Dez Bryant's out-of-end-zone fingertips before what was originally called a game-winning score. Once the euphoria stopped and eyeballs were inserted back into the skull, game officials correctly overturned the errant call, saying Bryant's right hand landed out.
The Giants escaped with a 29-24 victory and Dallas was left feeling a punch to the gut, a slap to the face, and a bevy of questions. This, during the Romo era, is the Dallas way.
Dallas fans will focus on six seconds left, and Bryant's fingertips, and the 37-yard touchdown catch that wasn't, but there are bigger questions here, and none bigger than, once again, we're on the Romocoaster, asking: what if?
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What if Romo didn't at times have a million-dollar arm and a ten-cent head? What if the Dallas coaching staff wasn't at times so inept? What if this team didn't waste such brilliant talent as Jason Witten, who broke a franchise record for catches with 18? What if, again, they didn't turn the ball over, this time six times, a season high, five of them leading to Giants scores?
The Giants have won four consecutive road games versus the Cowboys for the first time in team history. These two franchises have fought and scraped for decades, and it isn't a coincidence this piece of history was birthed during the Romo-Jason Garrett era.
Sloppiness, greatness, and unevenness -- that's the way of these Cowboys.
Romo alternates between two distinct worlds, one where he is brilliant, and one where he is atrociously bad. Troy Aikman good and Ryan Leaf bad. He can straddle both of those worlds like a great trapeze artist -- many times game to game, but against New York, the Romocoaster was active almost play to play.
"Not going into specifics," Garrett said. "There were a couple of throws he has to make."
Did he think about benching Romo? "Absolutely not," Garrett said.
"It's abundantly clear you have to take care of the ball," Garrett said.
But is it really so clear? Because we've seen this Romo show before.
Portions of Romo's first half were about as bad as any Cowboys player has ever had in this franchise's long and storied history. With 13 minutes left in first half, the Cowboys had four turnovers, Romo had three interceptions, one a pick-six. This led to New York having a 23-0 lead before holding on to their jock straps.
"It's a hard league and a hard position," said Garrett, who is now the principal Romo defender. " ... this is not the first time quarterbacks have thrown interceptions in games."
At one point in the game, fans began booing Romo, but their wrath didn't stop there. Each time owner Jerry Jones' picture appeared on the big screen, he was also booed, though it's unclear if they were booing Jones the owner or Jones the general manager. Or all of the above.
The early Dallas implosion, to be sure, was a team one, but Romo was perhaps the biggest reason. At one point during this collapse, he continued an interception streak in which he had seven picks in his past five quarters at home. All of those interceptions his fault? No. Most of them? Yes.
Remember, though, this is the Romocoaster. Somehow, after upchucking before the nation in the first half against New York, he looked like Joe Montana in the second, as the Cowboys scored a startling 24 consecutive points to take a 24-23 lead in the third quarter.
This was stunning to watch. This was, easily, the most amazing game of the day. And this was, easily, a typical Romo game.
A desperate, clawing, brutal game that required the Romo heroics because of the Romo knuckleheaded-ness.
At the beginning of the season, Jones declared that the Cowboys would beat the Giants' ass. His words. Instead, the Giants took a huge step to securing the division, and the Cowboys took another step toward irrelevancy.
There are parts of this team that are spectacular. There is too much talent for the Cowboys to be 3-4. Look at the Giants. They did almost lose but they didn't because the quarterback and coach didn't make stupid mistakes. Eli Manning is 4-0 for the month of October (27-5 in the month for his career) because he's cool under pressure and a smart player. The 23 regular-season comeback victories proves this.
And Giants coach Tom Coughlin didn't make the kind of mistake that Garrett did late. On fourth-and-1 with 1:14 left, Romo dropped back to pass, and was intercepted (his fourth of the day). Actually, on third-and-1 before that, Romo also threw a pass (which was incomplete). Why didn't the Cowboys run the ball and get the first down, especially on fourth, when they still had all of their timeouts?
Coughlin has made errors, but he's a good bet to get into the Hall of Fame because he doesn't make errors like that.
"There's no luck," Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora said. "That's football."
That's smart football. What the Giants play.
It's only a matter of time before this Cowboys team is dynamited. It has to be. It just can't win this way. It just can't...
... up and down on the Romocoaster.