Friday, November 13, 2009

Cowboys' Romo excelling as his game grows

By Eric Edholm

There are lots of statistical data that back up the fact that Tony Romo is having one of his better seasons, especially in the past four games.

He is getting into rhythms early in games, but his fourth-quarter passing numbers (27-of-51 passing, 531 yards, three TDs) also show that he is finishing off games — something he hasn't always done.

After a tough start to the season on third downs, when it seemed Romo was trying to force the issue a bit, he came back with a 9-for-11 passing performance for 140 yards and a TD against a very good third-down defense of the Eagles.

And he has stood up well against the blitz, making big plays when teams send extra rushers. Through eight games, he has thrown for five TDs and only two interceptions when teams send more than four rushers.

But there is more to Romo's ascension than numbers. For one, observers say he has matured greatly over the past year and finally appears at peace with his fame and position as the player who fans and media alternately love and hate.

Romo knows he can't please everyone, and the situation with WR Roy Williams is a great example. Despite Williams' comments about not being on the same page as Romo, which could derail other teams, the QB instead chose to stay mostly quiet on the matter and spend extra time working with Williams on timing and communication after practice.

On the field, Romo is throwing to the player who is open. In the win over the Eagles, it was mostly Williams and TE Jason Witten, but the past month has shown it easily could be WR Miles Austin, who has exploded onto the scene. Romo's patience was tested when the Eagles focused on taking Austin's deep routes away in that game. Romo threw his way only three times in the game prior to the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. It's hard for a quarterback to go away from such a hot hand, but Romo took what the defense gave him and came out on the winning end.

Historically, December and beyond have not been Romo's best months. He has tailed off in nearly every one of his seasons down the stretch and has gained a reputation as an early-season performer who fails when the games really matter. So the only way he's going to dispel that is by playing well after Thanksgiving, right when the Cowboys' schedule starts to get difficult again.