By Adam Dobrowolski
Cold, Hard Football Facts Cowboys beat reporter
Forget America’s Team. After the first two weeks of this NFL season, the Dallas Cowboys might just be Hollywood’s Team.
In Week 1, the Cowboys built themselves a 14-point fourth quarter, only to choke the game away as the New York Jets earned a symbolic win of the resiliency after the September 11 attacks.
For the Jets, it was a perfect way to end the league’s tribute to the nation 10 years after the attacks. For the Cowboys, it was a loss that brought up past demons in a way that Hollywood would dream up.
On Sunday, in a Hollywood-esque twist of fate, the Cowboys trailed early by 14 points and by 10 points in the fourth quarter. One week after receiving extreme criticism for his poor fourth quarter, Tony Romo stepped up to give his team a redemption song and a 27-24 overtime win against the San Francisco 49ers. Oh yeah, and Romo led the comeback with a fractured rib.
As the newest Hollywood blockbuster tries to top the box office charts, here’s five things we learned about the Cowboys in the Week 2 win:
1. Tony Romo played true to his form with another great fourth-quarter performance.
After the pigskin pundits tried to trash Romo all week, the Cold Hard Football Facts quickly came to the quarterback’s defense. As proven earlier this week
, Romo actually improves in key situations during the regular season. In fact, Romo’s stats are definitely better than Tom Brady’s during three key situations (in the fourth quarter, when trailing and on fourth down).
In the fourth quarter, Romo completed 11 of 14 for 125 yards and a touchdown. In the two drives that started in the quarter, he led Dallas to a touchdown and the game-tying field goal. He then completed his only overtime pass attempt for 77 yards to down the San Francisco one-yard line.
He finished with a 141.0 passer rating in the fourth quarter and overtime. So much for choking.
2. The Cowboys turned the game around with their late first-half touchdown.
Truth be told, Romo by far struggles the most in the first quarter. His 76.2 passer rating and 6.5 yards per attempt pale in comparison to his 101.5 passer rating and 8.5 yards per attempt after the first quarter.
However, his struggles extended in the second quarter yesterday. At one point, Romo threw seven consecutive incomplete passes as Dallas fell behind 14-0. Then came a monster touchdown pass to Miles Austin.
After the Cowboys earned a free third-down attempt after a San Francisco offside, Romo connected with Austin on a slant pass. The 49ers defender slipped, allowing Austin catch the ball with an open lane to pay dirt. After that play, Romo turned his game on.
7 of 16 (43.8%), 91 yards, 5.7 YPA, 0 TD, 0 INT, 62.2 passer rating
13 of 17 (76.5%), 254 yards, 14.9 YPA, 2 TD, 0 INT, 157.1 passer rating
The numbers say it all: the touchdown pass to Austin sparked near-perfect play by Romo as the Cowboys fought to comeback from a two-touchdown deficit.
3. The third-down defense nearly cost the Cowboys the game.
Look no further than the third-down defense as to why San Francisco jumped out to an early 14-0 lead. After a terrible 1-of-12 afternoon last week on third down, the 49ers converted seven of their first eight third down opportunities. This included a 12-yard touchdown pass from Alex Smith to Kyle Williams to make it a 14-0 game.
Luckily, the Cowboys stepped up defensively like they did during the first two downs. The 49ers converted only one of eight third down opportunities after that point. Perhaps it was only a matter of time after Dallas consistently played effective defense to set up third downs.
4. Jesse Holley gave us better reality TV than anything “4th and Long” could offer.
This isn’t meant to be an insult of Michael Irvin or his reality show that gave the winner a spot in the Dallas Cowboys training camp. Instead, it’s props for a player who used a television show to lay foundation for an NFL career.
And then came yesterday’s game. While Miles Austin (143 yards, 3 TD) and Jason Witten (102 yards) did wonders to help the comeback, Holley made a few big plays of his own. He caught the first two passes from Romo in the game-tying drive.
His true highlight came in overtime, when he ran a hesitated streak during the first play of the drive. Once he went full speed, nobody in the 49ers secondary was catching up to him until Holley got the ball inside the San Francisco five-yard line.
Looks like Jesse Holley made the cut again.
5. There might be some reason to worry about Tony Romo’s health.
Romo deserves major credit for coming back into the game after suffering a fractured rib. However, sometimes pure adrenaline can forge a player through a game-day injury. Over the next week, Romo won’t have that adrenaline to ease the pain.
Furthermore, Romo will likely play through the injury. That puts the pressure on an offensive line that’s still gaining cohesiveness and experience. Teams will look to dial in on the blitz, beginning with the Washington Redskins next Monday night.