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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, January 10, 2010

NFL: Any more doubts about Tony Romo should now be erased

By Tim Cowlishaw
The Dallas Morning News

ARLINGTON, Texas — You can’t call Tony Romo a playoff loser any more.
Just in case there were any doubts — and, yes, there were — he had a record number of witnesses on hand to prove it Saturday night.

Only a few months shy of his 30th birthday, the Cowboys quarterback won his first postseason game in convincing fashion. Scoring on five straight possessions, the Cowboys set a team playoff record with 27 points in the second quarter — an onslaught that included two Romo touchdown passes — as Dallas made it a clean sweep of the Philadelphia Eagles, 34-14.
The game drew 92,951 fans, the most to see an NFL playoff game other than a Super Bowl.
For the visitors, it was three strikes and they’re out. The team that humiliated the Cowboys at the end of the 2008 regular season, 44-6, saw its season end with a third straight loss to the Cowboys.
For Romo, the third time in the playoffs was the charm.
He probably never should have had to wait this long to enjoy postseason success. But now that he has, there’s every reason to think there’s more to come.
That could come as soon as next Sunday in the Metrodome against the Minnesota Vikings. Or it may not happen until next year.
Either way, the number of Cowboys fans that complain about Romo being their quarterback should be reduced ten-fold. The number that can maintain that he has never done anything when it counted is now down to zero.
This could have come about a lot sooner.
If not for a botched hold on a field goal try against the Seahawks, Romo might have won his first playoff game in Seattle three years ago. Whatever happened to that holder, anyway?
Certainly, the Cowboys were positioned to make a deep playoff run two years ago, when their 13-3 regular-season record earned them home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs. Romo wasn’t necessarily that good or bad in that game, but the Giants — a team destined to beat the 18-0 New England Patriots three weeks later — were just that much better.
That’s why Romo still had his skeptics right up until kickoff Saturday and maybe a bit beyond.
Although Dallas dominated the first quarter, Michael Vick’s quick strike to Jeremy Maclin that went for 76 yards made it a 7-7 game early in the second quarter. The huge crowd grew silent, and when Romo’s next pass appeared to be intercepted by safety Sean Jones, you could sense nerves beginning to rattle.
But officials reversed the call on replay, and Romo took the opportunity to lead Dallas on a 10-play, 85-yard touchdown drive for a lead the Cowboys would never surrender.
“We were humiliated by this team last year,” Romo said. “It’s kind of ironic that this year to get where we wanted, we had to go through the Eagles not once, not twice but three times.”
The Cowboys got there because Romo, despite facing more pass-rush pressure than he did a week ago, kept his cool. In leading Dallas on one scoring drive after another, Romo was dominant. He threw for 203 yards to Donovan McNabb’s 39 as the Cowboys built a 20-point halftime lead.
The playoff game marked a continuation of Romo’s focused play down the stretch this season. Despite the Eagles’ pressure, he committed no turnovers and threw two touchdowns while completing 23 of his 35 attempts for 244 yards.
Since the team’s Thanksgiving Day win over Oakland, Romo has thrown 14 touchdown passes and only two interceptions.
One reason for his success is that Romo’s trust in the defense has grown.
“If you have a defense like that, you have a chance this time of year,” Romo said. “If we had played poor on offense tonight, we still would have had a chance.”
But there was nothing poor about Felix Jones rushing for 148 yards or Romo spreading the ball around to eight receivers while controlling the ball for more than 39 minutes.
So for the second time in three years, Romo is one of the last eight starting quarterbacks standing in the race to the Super Bowl.
He earned that spot in the regular season in 2007.
This time, he did it with a playoff victory that will always be his first and has no reason to remain his last.