Tony Romo Comes Up Big When It Matters Most

Jasper SchererAnalyst IIDecember 22, 2013

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 22:  Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys throws a pass in the first quarter against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on December 22, 2013 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Considering he is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in crunch time, Tony Romo sure gets a lot of flack for his late-game mishaps.

Romo has the reputation of a quarterback who can't get it done late in games, and in some cases, that reputation is well deserved. He has a penchant for making costly mistakes in the fourth quarter, many of which are chronicled here.

Yet, despite several select cases that suggest otherwise, Romo is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL late in games. This season, he is seventh among NFL quarterbacks in fourth-quarter passer rating, per NBC Sports. Also, as of late 2012, Romo was the active leader in passer rating in the fourth quarter, as stated by ESPN's Tim MacMahon.

Romo showed the better of his two faces on Sunday when he delivered in a big way. Facing fourth-and-goal from the 10-yard line and trailing the Washington Redskins by six points, the Cowboys' season was on the line. (The broadcaster aptly described it as "fourth-and-season.")

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 22:  DeMarco Murray #29 of the Dallas Cowboys scores the game winning touchdown in the fourth quarter during an NFL game against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on December 22, 2013 in Landover, Maryland. The Dallas Cowboys d
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Romo escaped the pass rush and found running back DeMarco Murray in the end zone, giving the Cowboys a 24-23 lead with 1:08 remaining in the game. That proved to be the game-winner.

The touchdown pass capped a solid performance by Romo that included a pair of touchdown passes, giving him 31 on the season. (Only Peyton Manning and Drew Brees have more.) Additionally, he has thrown just 10 interceptions this season, a huge improvement from his 19 picks last season.

Most importantly, the win sets up a huge Week 17 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles. That game, regardless of the result of Sunday night's contest between the Bears and Eagles, will decide the winner of the NFC East.

The game figures to be a shootout, as it features the NFL's two worst pass defenses. (The Eagles are 31st, the Cowboys are dead last.) That, combined with each team having a quarterback among the NFL's leaders in passing (Romo and Eagles quarterback Nick Foles), means there likely won't be much defense on display.

Ironically, one of Romo's worst fourth-quarter interceptions came against the Redskins last season. In the Week 17 game that decided the NFC East winner, Romo tossed up a pick with just over three minutes remaining and his team trailing by three. Hopefully for the Cowboys, Romo can avoid making a costly mistake like that in this year's Week 17 division-decider.

For now, it appears that Romo may be finally shedding that image of a crunch-time failure. If he can lead his team into the playoffs and perhaps even win a game or two, he can finally lay his doubters to rest.