It's 2015. You've already made a bevy of pacts with yourself regarding how you're going to change your life. Your eating habits are going to be different. Your workout routine is going to be different. Your socially introverted personality is going to be different. There's one thing you firmly believe will be the same, though: Tony Romo choking in the playoffs. And that's where you're wrong.
Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys aren't the same team they've been in previous playoff years. Let us explain why:
Strong Finish to the Season
In fact, Tony Romo was named the NFL's player of the month in December. Dallas won all four of its games, including a 42-7 WHOOPING on the Indianapolis Colts and a 38-27 W against the division rival Philadelphia Eagles. Romo set the highest quarterback rating in the month of December ever, logging an insane 133.7 in the books. That's all part of a 6-1 finish in the second half of the season.
Romo's Career Year
Here's the laundry list of his career-bests this year (with previous bests in parentheses).
- 69.9% pass completion (69.5% - 2010)
- 9 interceptions (9 - 2009)
- 3.78 touchdown/interception ratio (3.1 - 2011, 2013)
- 82.7 QBR (71.2 - 2007)
- 113.2 passer rating (102.5 - 2011)
Yeah, we know, we know, you're going to tell us he's only that good during the regular season. But he sure as hell looks like a man on a mission right now.
Romo's Repeatedly Proven Toughness
During Week 8, Romo was knocked out of Monday Night Football game against the Washington Redskins. He'd clearly injured his surgery-repaired back, yet he still tried to come back on the final drive after missing more than a quarter of play. He played through a similar injury the previous season, also during a game against the Redskins. This year, Romo was knocked out for one game before coming back to play through the pain the rest of the season, despite having two fractures in his back. He also revealed in early December that he'd been playing through a broken rib, which, once again, is not the first time that has happened. Back in 2011, he played through a broken rib and a punctured lung.
Again and again and again, Romo has proven he's one of the toughest dudes in the league. It's that kind of will that will get you deep into the playoffs.
DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant
This season was the first year that both Bryant and Murray played all 16 games, and the team's impressive offensive numbers reflected that. Dallas finished with the fifth-most points per game with 29.2 and the seventh-most yards per game with 386.1. Dez Bryant—who has been spectacular the past two seasons as well—finished with his best year ever with 1,320 yards and 16 touchdowns. He's a big-play creator who's also great at adapting and helping Romo when he gets into some trouble.
Murray put together one of the most tremendous running seasons in recent history, totaling 2,261 yards from scrimmage (1,845 rushing) and 13 touchdowns. He logged 12 100-yard games, including an insane record eight straight to start the season. With a back performing at Murray's level, there's that much less pressure on Romo, who can settle in and focus on doing what he does best.
Basically we're saying Murray is a slight step up from Marion Barber.
Romo Has Already Won a Playoff Game
The last time Tony was in the playoffs, he got his first postseason win 34-14 against the Eagles in 2009. He lost the following game when he ran into (this is so weird to type) the Brett Favre-to-Sidney Rice express and a Minnesota defensive line that sacked him six times. Favre became the first 40-year-old to win a playoff game and Rice tied a league record with three touchdowns that day. It was a weird moment in sports history, but that's getting away from the point.
Romo won't be entering this postseason with the talk that he's still never won a playoff game, which was a huge storyline in the narrative of his career. He'll have that theoretical monkey off his back, as well as defensive linemen off his back. Dallas' offensive line is much improved and beefed up (a mere 30 sacks allowed on Romo this season).
Undefeated Away From Home
The Cowboys finished the season 12-4, and every single one of those losses came at home (one during which Romo was injured and the other during which Romo didn't play at all). Those eight road wins included one in Seattle, who along with the Packers will be the Cowboys' biggest obstacles in the playoffs. In fact, 20 of Romo's touchdowns have come on the road, as opposed to only two interceptions. The first postseason game will be at home against the Lions, but the second will roll through Seattle or Green Bay.
... or the Cowboys will trail the Lions by six, will be sitting on the Lions' 11 yard line with 37 seconds remaining, and Tony Romo will scramble out of the pocket and eventually get squashed by Ndamukong Suh who will then recover the fumble and score the most magnificent 89-yard fat-guy rumbling touchdown in NFL history. And then everybody will hop on Twitter and be like, "HEY @T_Marko, HOW'S TONY ROMO'S DICK TASTE NOW?" And I'll smile happily, because that element of never knowing what could happen is exactly what makes sports great. Then next year I'll somehow find another new way to defend Romo and get roasted once again.