London games, at least from the various couches I've watched them on, are always odd. English fans, to their credit, are always enthusiastic, but their cheers are usually half-a-beat off. The extra quarter-of-a-second they need to process what happens on the field, combined with the generally terrible Wembly Stadium pitch and the fact that, assuming you're watching from the U.S., you're seeing a night game on your TV at noon give the whole thing a distinct exhibition vibe.
And here were the Cowboys, losers of two in a row after a league-best 6-1 start, needing to win in that same goofy environment. Tony Romo, he of the two recent back surgeries and two more recent back fractures, for some reason, made the trip. With two broken bones in his back, it was clear -- despite the protestations of Jason Garrett and Jerry Jones -- Romo was going to start Sunday. He wouldn't have made the flight if anyone thought otherwise.
Sure enough, after a rousing rendition of God Save the Queen and the Jaguars' kickoff, there he was, gingerly trotting out onto the muddy field to carry the Cowboys, just as he's done so many times before. What followed wouldn't have been special most days. Sunday though, it was. Romo's mere competence was inspirational.
Whatever he did, and he was mostly just a distributor, Romo never looked like he was pretending. Pretending is what's burned the Cowboys over the last couple of weeks, and over the last couple of years. Brandon Weedon pretended to play quarterback. Jerry Jones pretended to be a doctor, just like he pretends to be a competent general manager and pretends that Jimmy Johnson wasn't the one who put together the 'Boys three Super Bowl teams in the '90s.
Facing a Jacksonville defense that actually isn't that bad, Romo never pretended that he was 100 percent, never tried to do something he couldn't just like he never looked like he wasn't in pain. He didn't make any big mistakes, just like he didn't make any big plays. He did get the ball to the Cowboys' playmakers early and often, though. DeMarco Murray got back on the 100-yard rushing train and, most important, Dez Bryant got involved.
(OK, that was a decent throw.)
Bryant had all of his 158 receiving yards during the second quarter and basically put the Jaguars out of their misery. He doesn't need much, and Romo gave him just enough.
Assuming Romo, Murray and Bryant, all of whom stayed in the game at least half a quarter too long, have made it back unscathed, Sunday was the salve Dallas needed headed into their bye week. Romo still shouldn't have played, but right now Cowboys fans should be pretty glad that he did.
Odds and Sods
- If you really want to be entertained, watch Zack Martin get off the line and wallop someone downfield on a screen pass. He does it consistently and with joy and mischief in his heart.
- The NFL's participation in London's Remembrance Day festivities was a nice touch.
- The London fans booing of Weeden's kneel downs at the end of the game was unexpected and a delight.
- Romo's protective gear under his jersey made him look like the Michelin Man, not that that's a bad thing.
- Up next: The Giants in New York two weeks from today, then the huge Thanksgiving afternoon tilt against the Eagles.
- Henry Melton, again, was the Cowboys best pass rusher.