First, the obvious. In last night's loss to Washington, there were a few very small things that could have shifted the outcome in the Cowboys favor. If DeMarco Murray doesn't fumble inside the 10 with just under 13 minutes left in the second quarter, the Cowboys probably win the game. If Doug Free isn't hurt and an undermanned offensive line doesn't give up five sacks to a Washington defense missing its best pass rusher, the Cowboys probably win the game. If the Scott Linehan isn't struck down with a weird playcalling bug at the end of both halves and in overtime, the Cowboys probably win the game. You get the idea. Viewed on its own, October 27 against the Redskins was just one of those strange, snakebit games that can afflict any team, even a very good one.
Monday night's loss at Jerryworld can't be viewed on its own, though. It can't be viewed on its own because of what happened midway through the third quarter: Tony Romo taking a Keenan Robinson knee to the back.
The good news is that X-rays were negative. Romo has a back bruise and returned to the game after getting a painkilling shot in the locker room. Whether his return was the best thing for the Cowboys Monday is doubtful. Brandon Weeden led the team to 10 points in his two possessions and Romo was in enough pain that looking at him made my back hurt. Remember, too, that he stayed in the game, and completed a fourth-quarter comeback, after hurting his back against the Redskins on the season's next to last Sunday last year. He had season-ending disc surgery the following Friday.
The Cowboys play the Cardinals at home on Sunday followed by a trip to London to take on the Jaguars. Romo should not play in either game. Because the Cowboys are off the week following the Jaguars game, he would have almost a month off and miss just two starts. Even Weeden, the definition of a replacement-level backup quarterback, can beat the Jaguars, so the worst the Cowboys would be heading into their November 23 game in New Jersey against the Giants would be 7-3.
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Throughout the Cowboys run to 6-1, people have been quick to tie the 2014 team to the Aikman-Smith-Irvin era. Romo missing a few starts would continue to make this team fit right in. In 1991, Aikman missed the last four games of the regular season and Steve Beuerlein went 4-0 as a starter. In 1993, Aikman missed two starts and Jason Garrett and Bernie Kosar went 1-1. Garrett's finest moment as a player came in the 1994 Thanksgiving game when he beat the Packers in the fourth quarter playing for the injured Aikman and Aikman's injured backup Rodney Peete.
So it's not the end of the world if Romo misses a couple of games and comes back as the guy who's been the perfect complementary piece to league-leading rusher Murray. If the injury lingers past Thanksgiving, or if the QB plays and makes it worse, the Cowboys will not win a playoff game if they make it at all.
Odds and Sods
- Murray had 221 yards from scrimmage and extended his league-record streak of hundred-yard games to start a season to eight. He had another critical fumble, this time in the red zone, and as it did in the season-opening loss to the 49ers it cost the Cowboys.
- Dez Bryant was thoroughly neutralized by Redskins rookie corner Bashaud Breeland. Breeland also made a big play to knock down a late-first quarter deep ball to Terrance Williams. He was Washington's best player on the night.
- The overtime playcalling sequence was dumbfounding. After Murray got eight yards on first down, it went swing pass to Murray for a loss of almost two, incomplete pass to Witten, incomplete pass to Bryant being absolutely blanketed by Breeland. Why Murray didn't get another carry is a mystery for the ages.
- If the Cowboys had pulled it out, Murray's recover of Romo's fumble on the team's last possession of regulation would have been the play of the game.
- Witten caught his 600th pass from Romo in the first quarter, which is kind of ridiculous.
- Justin Durant tore a biceps and is likely out for the season, making Bruce Carter's recovery from injury and playing well for the last eight games essential.