Tony Romo puts Cowboys over top against Raiders

December 01 [Sun], 2013, 11:43

ARLINGTON, Tex. – Even with a nasty flu bug, Tony Romo continues to own Thanksgiving.

The Dallas Cowboys quarterback loves this stage, and has thrived year after year in the Cowboys' annual holiday home game.


This Thursday was no different, though Romo had to show a new kind of grittiness in leading Dallas to a Cowboys to a 31-24 win against the Oakland Raiders. Romo fell ill late Wednesday, battled the bug throughout the night and received treatment throughout the morning just to be ready to play.


"He kind of put on that Michael Jordan – you know, being sick, and sticking it out and putting this W out for us," Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant said.


BOX SCORE: Cowboys 31, Raiders 24

THANKSGIVING: Who is NFL's best on holiday?

Perhaps the flu was an explanation for some depleted stats – his 225 passing yards were his fewest in seven Thanksgiving Day starts, and he threw only one touchdown – but to Dallas owner Jerry Jones, the man with supreme faith in Romo, it was a sign that Romo might finally be primed to lead the Cowboys back to the playoffs.


"He's just a gamer, and he's showing us time and time again," Jones said.

Pedestrian passing numbers aside, Thursday was just another big Thanksgiving for Romo, who hit just enough big throws, showed extreme trust in his favorite receivers even after they struggled, and avoided any major mistakes. Romo improved to 6-1 on Thanksgiving games, in which he has thrown 20 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He's thrown for more than 300 yards in five of those seven games, each one of them broadcast to a nation full of stuffed football fans.


But maybe Romo's repeated Thanksgiving success has helped contribute to what has been so confusing about Romo for much of the eight seasons he's been the Cowboys' quarterback. He can be so calm, so precise, and so gutsy in those November games, that we wonder why it can't just last all the way through Christmas.


<!--iframe comment-->With Thursday's win against the Raiders – Dallas' first win against an AFC team this year -- the Cowboys finish off November at 7-5 and remain atop the NFC East, a half-game ahead of Philadelphia. But good luck finding many Cowboy faithful who expect Romo and the Cowboys to just tear through December and earn their first trip to the playoffs since 2009.


It's never that easy for Dallas, and certainly never that easy for Romo.

Look at the month ahead. The Cowboys have a Monday night road game at Chicago, a home game against the Green Bay Packers – by which time Aaron Rodgers could be back – before division games at Washington and against Philadelphia in the final weeks of the season.


Would anyone be surprised if that Week 17 game against Philadelphia is a winner-take-all game for the NFC East?


The Cowboys and Romo have been there the last two years, and lost both – to the Giants in 2011 and the Redskins last year.


Romo's December record in 12-16, while the Cowboys have not had a winning record in the final month of the season since 2009.


Those struggles are no secret, and will be a frequent conversation point as the calendar turns to December this weekend. Romo was, in fact, asked about it Thursday night. He polite smiled, but had no interest into delving into Decembers past.


"We just need to win some games," Romo said, "and see where we are at the end."

ANALYSIS: Cowboys still have major flaws

If this is the year the Cowboys can finish strong and get over that 8-8 hurdle, it will be because of drives like the one Romo put together late in the second quarter Thursday. The first quarter had been a struggle aside from the one-play, 3-yard touchdown drive after the Raiders fumbled the ball near the goal line, and the second quarter was worse. Dallas had zero yards in that quarter before Romo got the ball after the 2-minute warning.


He was poised, in control of the offense and the play calls. He hit tight end Jason Witten for 22 yards and Bryant for another 25 – just two plays after Bryant fumbled at the end of a short catch. With just 14 seconds remaining before halftime, Romo waved off a play from the sideline and called a, up-the-gut run for DeMarco Murray. Touchdown, one of three for Murray on the day.


It was the pivotal possession in the game, and it happened because Romo took control.

"He did. He did," Bryant said. "You can see it on his face, and you just want to be in there with him. You don't want to screw it up. You can tell he wants it, and it makes us want it even more than we thought."


Follow NFL reporter Lindsay H. Jones on Twitter @bylindsayhjones.

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Tony Romo puts Cowboys over top against Raiders

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