For Tony Romo, it all seemed too familiar. Once again, he was on the outside looking in, as his team fell again in a do or die game. On this week 17, Dallas had big plans for the playoffs, but once again Romo made critical mistakes, the defense could not stop the Redskins, and the Cowboys are left to lick their wounds after another crushing exit on the verge of the playoffs. Washington won this one 28-18, giving them the NFC East title and forcing the Cowboys to look long and hard at their roster, ownership and coaching staff personnel. Romo threw two touchdowns to go along with his three interceptions, while Redskins’ rookie running back Alfred Morris stole the show, rushing 33 times for 200 yards and three touchdowns in a tight game that was perhaps a fitting end to the NFL’s regular season.
The game started off promisingly for the Cowboys, as they were able to force a punt on the Redskins’ first possession, and the punt was returned all the way down inside Redskins territory. It was there that Tony Romo made his first mistake, missing over the middle and getting intercepted for the first time with Dallas in scoring territory. After a few more punts by each side, Dallas drove down the field and Romo hit Jason Witten over the middle for a touchdown, after eluding pressure for almost 8 seconds before Witten finally broke free. The Redskins responded immediately, however, capping a long drive with an Alfred Morris 17 yard touchdown run. Another Romo interception halted another drive for the Cowboys, and before the half Dallas had another drive stall before getting into field goal range. It was 7-7 at the half, with just 30 minutes to decide the final playoff spot. The third quarter was a defensive struggle, but the Redskins broke through with 3 minutes left on a RGIII touchdown on an option run. The Cowboys then had to settle for a field goal, and Morris broke free for a 32 yard touchdown run up the middle to give Washington a 21-10 lead in the fourth quarter. Romo then started to work his fourth quarter magic, hitting Kevin Ogletree for a 10 yard touchdown and converting the 2 point conversion to make it 21-18 with just 5 minutes left. Dallas forced a punt, and Romo got the ball back with a few minutes left to try to lead a game winning or game tying drive. On the second play, Romo lofted an ill-advised pass in the flat to a covered receiver, which was intercepted by Rob Jackson to set up the Redskins deep in Dallas territory to ice the game. The drive was aided by a roughing the passer penalty on third down, which led to another Morris touchdown to ice the game, making Romo’s last minute drive irrelevant.
Once again, the Cowboys were unable to come through when it mattered most, especially when Romo threw the interception down 3 late in the fourth quarter. For all of his heroics this season, Romo could not deliver once more to get Dallas to the postseason. That being said, without him Dallas probably would have lost twice as many games as they did this year, and there is something commendable in that. This loss will certainly leave a bitter taste in Dallas’s mouths, especially after suffering the same fate last season. The Cowboys will have more questions than answers this offseason, and it will be interesting to see how everything shakes out in the spring and summer.