One player is free from blame in Cowboys' 34-3 loss
08:06 PM CST on Sunday, January 17, 2010
MINNEAPOLIS — The ultimate humiliation occurred on the final play of the first half: The Dallas Cowboys couldn’t even protect Tony Romo long enough to throw a Hail Mary.
Romo eluded defenders for several seconds before Ray Edwards finally dropped him for a 16-yard loss.
The Cowboys’ offensive line in general — right tackle Marc Colombo in particular — gave him no chance. Jason Garrett’s play-selection didn’t help that much either.
Hit any quarterback hard enough and long enough and he will succumb whether it’s Romo, Troy Aikman or Roger Staubach.
Minnesota sacked Romo six times, forced three fumbles — he lost two — and intercepted him once.
Defensive end Ray Edwards, who abused Colombo, finished with four tackles for loss, three sacks and a forced fumble. Oh, he also hit Romo six times.
Actually, the Vikings hit Romo so often that he began sensing pressure on the rare occasion he did receive protection, which made him tentative on some plays, while he rushed others.
The Vikings, tied for second in the NFL with 111 negative plays, thrive on creating down-and-distance situations that force teams to throw. Then, Edwards and All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen can ignore the running game.
It’s no coincidence Minnesota led the NFL with 48 sacks.
Thirteen times, the Cowboys were tackled for a loss. Their first seven series contained at least one negative plays, in part, because the noise at Mall of America Field prevented Romo from varying his cadence — he has seven different options at home — which made the offensive line vulnerable.
“It looked like Tony was running for his life,” said Wade Phillips, “on the plays that he didn’t get sacked.”
Romo moved the Cowboys on their first three possessions, totaling 141 yards, but managed only a 33-yard field goal.
“We needed points at the end of those drives,” Romo said.
This, however, is only the beginning for Romo.
He played well in December for the first time, earning player of the month honors, and won his first playoff game. Now, he’s ready to become one of the league’s elite quarterbacks.
More important, he had an opportunity to personally watch Brett Favre show why he’s among the finest quarterbacks to ever play.
Favre was masterful, completing 15 passes for 234 yards and four touchdowns. Maybe, you prefer superb. What about phenomenal?
Feel free to complain about Favre’s narcissism and his gargantuan ego. Lord knows we’re all going to be sick of the will he or won’t he retire questions once the season ends, but the man remains a great quarterback.
Don’t be a hater. You know it’s true — even if you’re a Packers’ fan with an Aaron Rodgers jersey.
“He’s been playing great all season,” Romo said of his childhood idol, “and I don’t think he was any different today. He led them.”
The 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions were no mirage. Neither was the 4,202 yards passing. Or the 107.2 passer rating.
Only the New York Jets had allowed fewer points than Dallas this season. In the last four games, the Cowboys had allowed four touchdowns and a field goal.
Favre was unimpressed.
His 47-yard touchdown to Sidney Rice, giving the Vikings a 7-0 first quarter lead, was breathtaking. Gerald Sensabaugh had excellent coverage, though he failed to look for the ball, but the pass was perfect.
On his second touchdown pass, Favre deftly stepped up in the pocket to avoid the rush and found Rice free in the middle of the field. He softly tossed him the ball and Rice completed the 16-yard catch-and-run that gave Minnesota a 14-3 lead.
“He’s the story,” Phillips said of Favre. “The guy is amazing.”
That’s the difference between a Hall of Famer, and a player still forging his legacy.
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