Monday September 19th, 2011

Tony Romo's return from injury sparked the Cowboys to an overtime win. (Jason O. Watson/US Presswire)

For one game ... well, make that one quarter, Tony Romo showed why, despite all the turnovers and late-game flops, he's still capable of being an elite quarterback in this league.

Romo struggled through the first two quarters at San Francisco, then cracked a rib just before halftime. When the Cowboys came out for the second half, trailing 14-7, Jon Kitna was at the helm with Romo relegated to the sideline.

Kitna actually tied things up, tossing a 15-yard touchdown to Miles Austin. But he also threw a pair of interceptions, and late in the third quarter, the 0-1 Cowboys found themselves staring at a 21-14 deficit. And that's when Romo started lobbying to get back in the game.

He won his argument, too. After his first possession back ended in a punt that led to a San Francisco field goal and 24-14 lead, Romo took over.

On Dallas' next series he completed 5 of 7 passes and capped it off with a 25-yard TD to Miles Austin. When the Cowboys got the ball back again, Romo went 5 of 6 to get his team into field goal range, allowing Dan Bailey to send the game to overtime.

And he needed just one play in overtime -- a 77-yard bomb to Jesse Holley -- to put Dallas in position for a game-winning field goal.

Instead of being 0-2 and two games back in the NFC East, the Cowboys head into their home opener a respectable 1-1. More importantly, all those questions about Romo's ability to close out a game should quiet down for at least a few days.

The attention will fall now on R0mo's health. A cracked rib, as he showed Sunday, is an injury a quarterback can play through, but it's also one that could get worse with one more hit.

Why is that a problem for the Cowboys? Well, they saw again Sunday -- just as they saw all last year with Romo hurt -- that they're not a very good team minus their starting QB.

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Of course, Sunday's game is also what makes Romo one of the most frustrating players in the league. Every so often, and really more than we give him credit for, he displays those flashes of brilliance. When he's on like he was in the fourth quarter Sunday, it's hard not to keep thinking, "Why can't he always play like this?"

The fact that he doesn't always play like that drives Cowboys fans crazy.

Was the meltdown against the Jets Romo's bottoming out? Was Sunday the time he finally flipped the switch, once and for all realizing that he's as good as he will let himself be? Romo's tricked us into thinking those thoughts before. All that can be said for sure is that he delivered against San Francisco Sunday, and the Cowboys could not have won without him.

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