By Chris Murray
For the NFC'Easter
The last time Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys visited Lincoln Financial Field in South Philadelphia, they were given a good old-fashioned Philly beat down of biblical proportions in a 44-6 shellacking in the regular-season finale.
That loss put the Cowboys out of the playoffs while adding to what has become their annual late season swoon of playing poorly in December and January.
This Sunday Dallas will come back to the Linc for another meaningful game against the surging Eagles, who are fresh off of a 40-17 whuppin' of the New York Giants. Both teams are 5-2 and tied for first-place in the NFC East.
The Cowboys have won three straight and the Eagles have won their last two. Romo said he is not thinking about what happened to him and his squad at the end of last season.
“That was last year,” Romo said of last year's loss to Philadelphia. “ We had to deal with that all off-season and we had to grind it out to get better, to improve and not let that happen again. We've taken a lot of steps to be the ball club that we're hopefully gaining to be. For us, it's about improvement and getting better.”
Both teams are feeling like that they've got the swagger back and are ready to make a move in the division. Obviously, something has to give here and somebody's going to win while the other squad will go through a week of agonizing re-appraisal and self-reflection.
That's something that Romo knows all about. He had an entire off-season to figure out what went wrong with himself and the Cowboys. Every one thought that the solution was to get rid of the always volatile Terrell Owens, which the Cowboys did at the end of last season. But the reality really and he even admitted it, was that Romo's half-hearted approach to game preparation was definitely apart of the death knell to the team's playoff aspirations.
And so everything will again bounce back to Romo, who has yet to win a meaningful game as the quarterback of “America's Team.” In some big games against divisional competition over the last couple of years, Romo has come up short.
The most glaring example was the Cowboys 33-31 loss to the New York Giants where Romo threw three interceptions led to three Giants touchdowns. One of those ;picks was returned for a touchdown. In a loss to the Denver Broncos, Romo was 11-of-24 for 201 yards, no touchdowns and one interception that he threw right to cornerback Champ Bailey near the end zone. Romo's inconsistent play throughout that game kept the Cowboys from taking what should have been a winnable game.
Sunday's game against the Eagles will be another opportunity for Romo to perform well in a big game. At this point of the season, Romo has finally found a go-to receiver in Miles Austin and his offense team has played with some semblance of consistency in their last three games. The Cowboys running game has been among the league's best.
The good part of that equation from Romo's perspective is that the burden is not all on him—he has weapons like Austin and tight end Jason Witten in the passing game and he has running backs like Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice.
“Anytime you play the position you have to do certain things well,” Romo said. “That's part of playing the position.when you have good personnel around you, it definitely helps that you can trust other people to know when they're going to be so you can look off longer. Obviously,when a guy can make people miss are things that separate themselves and that goes a long way.”
The only decent team Dallas played during that stretch of games was the Atlanta Falcons, a playoff team from last year. The Cowboys struggled in an overtime win over the 1-6 Kansas City Chiefs and they had an easy time with a 2-5 Seattle Seahawks. Those teams they aren't necessarily world beaters.
Romo has to prove that he can stand up to the Eagles variety of blitz packages. The word on Romo for the last couple of years is to put pressure on him and he will crumble or have a bad game throwing the football. He has not proven that theory wrong in big games during his career.
Sunday's game against the surging Eagles will be one of many times (December is one month away) that Romo will have to prove that he can lead his team to a big win.