IRVING, Texas (AP) _ Two games into his first full season as a starting quarterback, Tony Romo has been exposed.
He doesn't know how to slide.
Romo's headfirst dive onto the hard baseball infield in Miami on Sunday was curious at best, a needless risk that prompted enough teasing that maybe he'll play it safe next time. Yet the real lesson of that scramble is that it's one of the few questionable decisions Romo has made thus far.
His stellar leadership is the main reason the Dallas Cowboys are 2-0 for the first time since 1999. He was the NFC offensive player of the week after producing five touchdowns against the Giants in the opener, then might have been even better in a 37-20 victory over the Dolphins.
Although his numbers were down, Romo kept coming through in the clutch. His best highlights produced touchdowns _ spinning from the grasp of Miami's Joey Porter and ducking beneath another rusher to somehow find tight end Tony Curtis open in the end zone, then throwing a 34-yard touchdown pass to Terrell Owens on fourth-and-5 with about four minutes left to seal the win.
“I think he played better against Miami than he did against New York, tight end Jason Witten said. “He made things happen. He created things on his own. When he does that, it allows our offense to be a lot better.
Coach Wade Phillips called the 2-yard TD pass to Curtis “an amazing throw, then gave Romo the ultimate compliment _ comparing the Wisconsin-reared quarterback to his childhood idol.
“He made some scrambles that you don't see many people make, Brett Favre-ish, Phillips said. “He made some really outstanding plays and he's still looking downfield all the time. That's what really amazes me about him. A lot of guys, they can get away from people at times but they don't see what's going on. He sees receivers.
Romo is averaging a ridiculously high 10 yards per attempts, with six touchdowns and only one interception. He's been sacked twice _ one of them for 0 yards, Phillips noted _ and he's turned seven runs into 47 yards and a touchdown.
His quarterback rating is 119.3 and he's guided the Cowboys to 82 points, their highest two-game total since 1971.
Just like everyone expected _ right?
Actually, Romo's strong start answers many of the questions that were still being asked about him despite his Pro Bowl breakout last season.
Because Romo went 5-1 then 1-4, some folks wondered if his success was a fluke. Others were concerned his bobbled snap of a hold in the playoffs would mess with his head. A swollen head was the fear of talk-radio callers who saw Romo in the celebrity pages more than the sports pages this summer.
Plus, he had to cut down on what Bill Parcells called “impulse throws and eliminate other risks he took that went beyond dive vs. slide.
Now September is only halfway done and Romo has won everyone over again, just like he did last November. Once again the buzz is about him carrying on the legacy of Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman.
“I don't ever think about that stuff, Romo said. “I'm just trying to prove to myself that I'm as good as I can be.
Well, there is one person whose opinion matters: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
Jones could've given Romo a contract extension over the summer, but opted to take a wait-and-see approach. He decided to risk letting the price go up for the peace of mind that Romo really is as good as the team hoped.
Now that leverage seems to have tilted in Romo's favor, the quarterback is playing it coy. When asked Monday if he had an in-season target date for a deal, Romo scrambled again: “I definitely would rather have something um, I guess I just don't really think about it too much either way.
“When it'll happen, it'll happen, I guess, he continued. “I'm in my last year here, so, you never know what's going to happen. You never know if this is going to be your last year with the Cowboys or you never know if you're going to be here a while. You just play the game and see where the chips fall.
Jones isn't about to let him go. Even if negotiations get ugly, Dallas could still use the franchise tag to keep him in 2008.
“You never know how the rest of the season is going to go, Romo said. “Do I think I'm going to play well and our team is going to do great? Sure I do. But you never know. If the Joneses don't want you or the organization isn't 100 percent behind you, then that's the way this game is. It's a business still. They have to treat it that from an owner and a general manager's standpoint. And I understand that.
So does he interpret the lack of a deal as a lack of support?
“No, Romo said. “I just think they wanted to see what they need to see. That's part of it. I completely understand both sides.
Romo has 14 games left, plus the postseason, to prove himself.
And, perhaps, to keep driving up the price.
Maybe sliding isn't such a bad idea after all.