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Romo ends week of bliss by plummeting back to Earth

ARLINGTON, Texas -- You've read this story before and, based on the track record, you're going to read it again.

It's about Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and his penchant to yank the rug out from under his team after he has spent a few games re-weaving it to the point everyone believes it's reliable enough to endure without being unraveled.

This story should be about the Detroit Lions rallying from 24 points down in the second half to beat the Cowboys 34-30 on Sunday and improve to 4-0, proving that it's not just some wonderful, whimsical tale.

It's just impossible to ignore that, as much as Detroit came out the victor, Dallas -- specifically Romo -- gift-wrapped this victory for the Lions, as he did in Week 1 to the New York Jets and before.

This is more damning, though. It's the largest blown lead in the Cowboys' illustrious history. That's epic. It's also a loss that kicked the team's hopes in the teeth -- again.

"There's no issue about faith in Romo in any place in this organization -- period," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said, again defending his quarterback, as he should. "We've got a lot of faith in Romo. This doesn't touch that. ... However we go, we'll go with Tony. As Tony goes, we'll go."

Better strap in, buy low and sell high, because that's how Romo goes.

So does the reaction to him. Not so much from fans but in house. Last Monday night, after beating the Washington Redskins, Romo was praised as a hero for playing through broken ribs. But on Sunday, Jones, coaches and teammates lined up as character witnesses as if Romo was on trial. Well, as an NFL quarterback, he is.

A given in sports is that if you treat the good like it's great and the great like it's historic, then bottom out emotionally when there's a loss or a bad performance, what you get is an unstable identity, inconsistency and, well, what Dallas is going through now.

"We'll be better from this," Romo said. "It just sucks right now."

Just six days ago, it didn't suck, and Romo was The Man. Sunday afternoon, he was advancing, as linebacker Bradie James said after Dallas improved to 2-1 last week, "The Legend of Tony Romo." On Sunday, Romo opened the game with three touchdown passes to build a 27-3 lead against a Lions team that didn't look like it could handle anything the Cowboys had to offer in the first half.

Then Romo offered former teammate and good friend, Bobby Carpenter, an errant interception that the linebacker took 34 yards for a touchdown to trim the deficit to 17 points.

OK, everyone makes mistakes. No problem.

On the next possession -- the next possession -- Romo one-upped himself with a poorly thrown sideline route to Laurent Robinson that was picked off and returned 56 yards for a touchdown by Chris Houston.

Fool me once, fool me twice ...

"The games turn, obviously, on turnovers," Romo said. "It's the most important stat there is in a game. That's why you protect the ball. It's my No. 1 job, and I didn't do a well-enough job of that today. I'm not taking anything away from them. They made a play when they had to. I shouldn't have allowed them to have that chance."

At the time, Romo threw more touchdowns for Detroit than Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. In the fourth quarter, Stafford got going and brought Detroit within six points when he lobbed a 23-yard jump ball into the end zone for wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who out-muscled three Cowboys defenders for a touchdown.

Panic had set in, and it seemed almost destined Dallas was going to blow it. It did. Well, Romo did.

Romo's poorly underthrown pass intercepted by linebacker Stephen Tulloch gave Detroit the ball with just more than four minutes left at Dallas' 40-yard line. Stafford cashed in with the go-ahead score to Johnson.


Romo had the flashier stats, but Stafford had the win. That's what hits so hard to the gut with Romo. He can outplay so many opposing quarterbacks until it matters, then he shrivels. Or he rises to the occasion. It's hard to know when and what will happen.

Strap in, buy low and sell high.

Late Monday night, after Dallas beat Washington, I sat in a postgame news conference, 20 feet from Romo, who seemed like he was much further away because he was on top of the world. He'd just rallied the Cowboys to a victory. Dallas was 2-1. He'd seemingly answered questions about how much he means to this franchise.

Six days later, Romo stood at another news conference, wishing he was under a rock because he cost the Cowboys the game. He'd blown it, leaving Dallas at 2-2. He'd triggered questions about how much he means to this franchise.


Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89

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