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We’ve Been Here Before; So Has Romo

Romo has his chance to lead his team into the playoffs, and to silence his critics

Let me paint the scenario for you. You win, you’re in. You lose, well that’s it. The season coming down to just one game. One game that will send the Cowboys to the playoffs, or one game that will have Cowboy’s nation up in arms demanding the firing of, well, everyone. We’ve been here before.

The Cowboys faced this situation just three seasons ago. The Cowboys were heading to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles in a “winner take all” game. The Cowboys needed a win to make the playoffs and knock the Eagles out, and the Eagles needed the same. We all remember what happened that season, the Cowboys failed to show up en route to a 44-6 thrashing by the Eagles.

That wasn’t the only time the Cowboys have been here. Many of you will remember the ’93 season finale against the same New York Giants. That game bears way more similarities to the Cowboys current predicament. Every longtime Cowboys fan remembers that famous game. It was that game, now dubbed the “Emmitt Smith Game”, that a young running back from Florida University endeared himself to Cowboys fans everywhere.

Smith seriously injured his shoulder in the first half of that game. He returned to put in one of the “gutsiest” performances in Cowboys history. He rushed for 168 yards, and added another 10 receptions for 61 yards, setting up the Cowboys 16-13 overtime victory and sending Dallas into the playoffs.

While the game was what they needed to get into the playoffs, Cowboys great Charles Haley says it was more than that, “What people don’t understand, it wasn’t fighting for a playoff spot, it was changing the mindset,” Haley said. “When Emmitt did that, it brought our mindset to, ‘Emmitt Smith played hurt. So take every moment and be great at it.’ After the game, Emmitt talked about that moment and he wanted to make a difference and wasn’t going to let a little pain stop him from doing that. That’s all we needed.”

What makes that so interesting is that this current group of Cowboys needs a “change of mindset” as well. The Cowboys have had 5 of their 7 losses this season attributed to blown fourth quarter leads. In a close game, it is hard to trust these Cowboys. It may even be hard for them to trust each other.

The last time against the Giants the Cowboys blew a 12-point lead in the final five minutes of the game to seal their fate in a 37-34 loss at Cowboys stadium. They have beaten only one team with a winning record all year.

The Cowboys need a “Smith-like” performance from someone in this Sunday’s game. I’m not suggesting they need someone to play hurt, but they need a leader to rise up and play a “gutsy” performance. The need some toughness and some determination. They need a guy to come out and play, demanding not to lose.

The problem is, I look at this roster and the only person I can think of that would be capable of doing such a thing is, Tony Romo. It’s only a coincidence that Romo is hurt, having hurt his throwing hand last week against Philadelphia.

But this is the moment that Romo has been waiting for. This is his chance to come out and prove to his critics, his fans, and this organization that he is capable of playing when the odds are against him. To prove that he is capable of being the leader that this team needs to change it’s fortunes.

We’ve been here before. Romo has been here before. But, in those opportunities he was young, inexperienced and overshadowed by bigger personalities. Now this is Romo’s team, and it is time for him to step up, much like Emmitt did 18 years ago. Romo believes the team is ready, and most of all he believes that he is ready.

“I think for us we had a big game at San Francisco (in Week 2) early in the year. It felt like a must-win at that time and we went out there and laid it on the line and the team won,” Romo said. “We were trailing late in that game. There was a lot of mental toughness there. We went up to Washington (in Week 11) in a game that was big for us there and showed a lot of mental toughness there. This football team has a way of keep coming back, keep grinding. Obviously when it comes down to a game like this, this is why you play sports, this is why you play this game is to be involved in games that can allow you to keep playing.”

While what Tony said is true, but let’s be honest. San Francisco was a big win, but not this big. In every “big” game against a really good opponent, they have failed to hold on. They need to do more than just keep playing. They need to build confidence in their ability to win big games. They need to build confidence in their defense. They need to build confidence in each other.

If the Cowboys are going to win in New York, if they are going to propel themselves into the playoffs, it rests on their leader. It rests on the arm and the mentality of their quarterback. It rests on Tony Romo.

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