Cowboys coach says Romo reinjured thumb in loss to Giants

Updated: January 16, 2008, 6:03 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Just like last season, the Dallas Cowboys' early ousting from the NFL playoffs might be due to Tony Romo's hand.

A Cowboys coach told ESPN's Ed Werder that Romo reinjured his right thumb in the team's 21-17 NFC divisional playoff loss to the New York Giants, causing swelling in the thumb for much of the game. Romo's thumb was hurt on his second throw when blitzing Giants' safety Michael Johnson swatted at the ball as he ran past the quarterback, causing a strange incompletion for Romo.

Tony Romo

Romo

Romo finished the game 18-of-36 for 201 yards with a touchdown but was sacked on each of the Cowboys' two final drives. The Cowboys' season ended with Romo throwing a fourth-down pass into the end zone and cornerback R.W. McQuarters stepping in front of Terry Glenn for the interception. It marked Romo's second straight disappointing finish to a playoff game, following his flubbed hold of a short field goal in Seattle a year ago.

Romo first injured his thumb in the Cowboys' 10-6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Dec. 16. Romo finished 13-of-36 for 214 yards in the loss, with a career-low rating of 22.2. It came in front of his parents and his newest A-list girlfriend -- Jessica Simpson, who tugged the front of her pink No. 9 jersey, then mouthed the word "Romo!" when cameras spotted her.

"If we go on and win the Super Bowl, the loss is a good thing," Romo said after the Eagles' game. "If we lose first round of the playoffs, the loss is not a good thing."

Romo played in the Dec. 22 game against the Carolina Panthers and was 28-of-42 for 257 yards with a touchdown and an interception as Dallas won 20-17. But he was 7-of-16 for 79 yards and an interception in the Cowboys' last regular-season game, a 27-6 loss to the Washington Redskins.

Romo was also pulled in the third quarter with Washington up 20-3 as the Cowboys rested anyone who was questionable with an injury because it had clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

In his playoff debut last season, Romo bobbled the snap on a 19-yard field goal attempt with 1:19 left that would have lifted the Cowboys past the Seattle Seahawks. Instead, Romo's bobble led to a scramble that ended 2 yards shy of the end zone and a yard short of a first down, preserving the Seahawks' 21-20 wild-card win.

"I know how hard everyone in that locker room worked to get themselves in position to win that game today and for it to end like that, and for me to be the cause is very tough to swallow right now," Romo said after the loss to Seattle. "I take responsibility for messing up at the end there. That's my fault. I cost the Dallas Cowboys a playoff win, and it's going to sit with me a long time."

The Cowboys' latest playoff loss was bigger because "America's Team" seemed pointed toward a ninth trip to the Super Bowl, maybe even a sixth championship.

"It hurts," Romo said after the loss to the Giants. "It's tough right now."

Dallas tied the most wins in team history with 13 but followed it by tying an NFL record with a sixth straight playoff loss. Romo fell to 0-2 and coach Wade Phillips finished his first year with the Cowboys by falling to 0-4 in his playoff career.

There are other dubious footnotes for Dallas, like being the first No. 1 seed in the NFC to lose in this round since the NFL went to the 12-team playoff format in 1990 and being the seventh team to lose a playoff game against a team they'd beaten twice in the regular season; the '98 Cowboys did it, too.

Romo came in looking to make up for last season's finish, to prove his sluggish December was no big deal and to quiet everyone who accused him of mixed-up priorities for Simpson on the beach in Mexico last weekend.

He couldn't do it, but it wasn't all his fault.

The offense stopped drives with penalties, while the defense kept New York drives alive by drawing more flags. There also was sloppy tackling on defense and special teams, dropped passes and wasted timeouts.

Despite the mistakes, the Cowboys had the ball with 1:48 left and only had to go 48 yards.

A Brett Favre-esque scrambling shovel pass by Romo to Jason Witten got the Cowboys to the 22 with 31 seconds left, then came more mistakes -- another false start, a short pass that forced Dallas to use its final timeout and a pair of poor throws, a ball in the end zone that Patrick Crayton seemed to give up on before futilely speeding up and the final play, caught by McQuarters.

Still, Romo is the marquee man and the most likely to be blamed, though not by Terrell Owens.

Owens, who made good on his vow to return from a high ankle sprain sustained three weeks ago, cried behind dark sunglasses with a quivering bottom lip while declaring, "You can point the finger at him, you can talk about the vacation, and if you do that, it's really unfair. That's my teammate. ... We lost as a team."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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