Commentary

Tony Romo was in complete control

After an eventful week, quarterback took over to make sure Cowboys didn't fall to 0-3

Updated: September 26, 2010, 9:10 PM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

HOUSTON -- There were team meetings, players-only meetings, one-on-one meetings, inspired speeches and heart-to-heart talks for the Dallas Cowboys this week.

There were changes in practice schedules and how many plays are run during practice.

All of it would have meant nothing if not for a little help from the quarterback.

Tony Romo did not beat the Houston Texans by himself Sunday. But Romo did something in the 27-13 victory he hadn't done in the first two weeks of this young season: play with a command of the game.

Tony Romo
Thomas Campbell/US PresswireTony Romo was on target against the Texans, completing 23 of 30 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns.

Quarterbacks are leaders ... or are supposed to be.

It's why people still love Joe Namath in New York.

Why grown men call Roger Staubach Mr. Staubach.

Why Troy Aikman and Terry Bradshaw don't wait long for a table at a crowded restaurant.

Quarterbacks are the big thing.

On Sunday, while everybody talked about Keith Brooking's key third-down sack and the return of a physical Marion Barber and how Roy Williams became a playmaker again, it was about Romo making plays, too.

It was that perfect 15-yard pass to Williams in the end zone to give the Cowboys a 17-3 lead in the third quarter. The touchdown completed a strong seven-play, 90-yard drive lasting 4:02.

Romo placed the throw in a spot out of the defense's reach where only Williams could stretch out his arms to catch it.

On that same drive, Romo landed a 30-yard pass to Dez Bryant in front of the Cowboys' sideline. It was thrown where it needed to be thrown. The only place it was going to land was in the receiver's hands or on the ground.

"His command was pretty good," coach Wade Phillips said of his quarterback. "You could tell he was on the same page with his receivers."

The stat sheet says Romo completed 23 of 30 passes for 284 yards with two touchdowns. His 127.6 quarterback rating was a season high. More than anything else, he took control.

"I think he knew he had to be on just with his calls and the consistency to play with," tight end Jason Witten said. "He did a great job of managing it and getting us [to do] the same thing."

An effective running game also helped Romo. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett called 26 run plays.

"It wasn't big gashes," Williams said. "It was just boom, 5 yards here; boom, 3 yards there; boom, there's a 14-yarder.

"It just makes the quarterback have whatever you want because once they bring that safety down [to stop the run], now they have to play man-to-man across the board with Dez, Miles [Austin] and Roy and Witten and the backs in the backfield, and that's tough."

Barber rushed for 55 yards on 17 carries, and Felix Jones averaged 6.1 yards on seven carries. Romo also did some play-action passes to freeze the linebackers and safeties.

The wide receivers made plays for him on the other end. Williams caught five of the six passes directed his way for 117 yards and two touchdowns. Witten caught passes seven of the eight times he was targeted. Bryant caught four of six balls, and Austin would have been three-for-three if he hadn't dropped one.

Romo didn't force too many passes. For the first time all season, perhaps, he played a near perfect game. He almost had one pass intercepted when he moved out of the pocket, and he was called for intentional grounding. Those were the only glaring mistakes. His protection gave him time so he wouldn't have to rush any passes.

With Romo's day over, he gathered the luggage at his locker and talked about a wedding he needs to attend in Burlington, Wis., on Saturday for a buddy from high school.

He seemed relaxed and ready to watch the Sunday night game. He didn't think he was going out for dinner when the team plane arrived in Dallas.

Yes, it's nice to win a game, especially when you make an impact on it.

"We're still in a position where we've got to keep grinding to get out of this, and we understand that," he said. "We know that it's not always going to be perfect, but we've got to find a way to keep getting wins.

"The commitment level is there; the effort levels have been there. We just have to minimize the mistakes and things that get you beat, and make the plays when you're there."

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.

Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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