Conventional wisdom insists that Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys were the risk-takers on Monday night for doing anything other than arranging for the un-peeling of their star QB from the grass-like floor of AT&T Stadium, enveloping him in bubblewrap, and airlifting him to the nearest crisis center for examination.
But actually, the Cowboys weren’t the team taking the nationally-televised risks here. The Washington Redskins – like a lousy team with a lousy record playing on the road while led by a third-string quarterback – are the ones who rolled gigantic dice.
“Brass ones,’’ as it turns out, to paraphrase Jimmy Johnson, though Jimmy wasn’t talking about dice.
Yes, it’s true, after Washington linebacker Keenan Robinson blitzed through Dallas’ unusually turnstile-like protection and blasted Romo, somehow landing a knee into the QB’s surgically-repaired back, Romo’s decision to eventually return to the game seemed rather … daring … risky … stupid. Your choice.
And people on the Dallas sideline – medical people – clearly agreed, as they attempted to veto Romo’s desire to return following the administering of a pain-masking shot to his back.
“He’s a warrior,’’ teammate Jason Witten said, and there’s no argument there … even though the warrior lost when his late-game performance was as wobbly as he was following Robinson’s pounding of him.
Rome’s motivation was clear. He’s the leader of a team that entered Monday with an NFL-best 6-1 record. This was a chance to crush an NFC foe and to extend the standings lead over the rest. And as of late Tuesday, Valley Ranchers were still crossing their fingers that Romo survived the hit without enduring serious damage.
But the Redskins were afforded a different motivation, a kooky-but-valuable one: Nothing to lose.
That’s as blitz-happy a defense as I’ve seen. And what surely started out as a dice-roll try ended up as a strategy because Romo’s pass-protectors never quite solved it. End result: An embarrassing total of five sacks of Romo against this vaunted young O-line.
Go for it on fourth down? Sure, and why shouldn’t rookie head coach Jay Gruden call for a throw off play-action to somebody named Darrel Young, who touches the football about once per game for Washington?
Ask Colt McCoy to imitate injured Redskins starter Robert Griffin III? Dallas only forced McCoy to miss on five of his 30 passes, and he zigged and zagged in the pocket to get 299 passing yards and a rushing touchdown. McCoy, the University of Texas product, had been 6-16 as an NFL starter and the team he was in charge of was just as bad, at 2-5 coming in.
“Well, it’s terribly disappointing,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “Jay Gruden and his staff, their organization, they came in here and took it to us.’’
Washington took it to Dallas because Washington, contrary to conventional wisdom, is the team that took the risks here.