IRVING, Texas (AP) — Tony Romo’s spectacular scramble provided a big boost for the Cowboys.
Many were impressed after Romo escaped the grasp of an Eagles pass rusher by starting backward and then reversing to go toward the line of scrimmage.
He made another defensive lineman miss with a quick cut to his right, which set him up perfectly to throw 25 yards to Miles Austin.
Something else was unique about Sunday. Romo had the play that changed the game, and avoided turnovers.
That’s been an elusive combination, and one of the reasons the Cowboys (4-5) have struggled at times.
Without the play, Dallas would have punted and gone to the fourth quarter trailing 17-10.
Instead, Dallas tied the game, and the Cowboys pulled away for the 38-23 win.
They scored on a punt return, an interception and a fumble, a first for that trifecta in franchise history.
There was a sense, though, that everything could have been different without the play from Romo, who connected on a 30-yard touchdown to Dez Bryant three plays after the scramble — on another third down.
“Well, like I said after the game, in some ways you just kind of have a sensation that it’s an important time to obviously try and get a first down, and that was a point in the game that I felt like it was in our best interest as a football team to take that chance,” Romo said. “You know watching it back afterward, there are just some things you feel, see and react to.”
Dallas coach Jason Garrett gets concerned about the sometimes freewheeling Romo, who has a reputation of carelessness when it comes to protecting the ball.
He leads the NFL with 13 interceptions, and he enters Sunday’s home game against Cleveland (2-7) knowing he threw nine of them in his past two starts at home.
But Garrett, the former NFL quarterback, marvels at plays like the one Sunday. It wasn’t the first from Romo.
“I know what a melee that whole thing feels like,” Garrett said. “These guys are all around you. You feel like you’re going the wrong way. He just has this great poise about him as an athlete where he can just kind of feel what the heck’s going on, keeps his eyes up, sees down the field. It’s pretty unique.”
Garrett said Romo learns how to keep the ball close to his body while he’s scrambling, and he did it with both big moves on the play against the Eagles.
The coach and his quarterback are always talking about the ad-lib plays — those that worked and those that didn’t.
“You just have to be careful,” Garrett said. “Is this really what you wanted to do? The risk and reward of this 3-yard gain as opposed to another play where you make the third-and-5 where he makes six guys miss and throws it to Miles for a 25-yard gain.
“It’s a little bit of a balancing act, but again, we never want to stifle him to the point where he’s not being who he is.”
Romo threw nine interceptions in 2009 and had just 10 last season, when the Cowboys missed the playoffs by losing to the New York Giants in the regular-season finale.
The fact that he threw nine interceptions in just two of his home games this season also means he has only four in the other seven games.
“I don’t know. I mean, how many games have we had at home? Three?” Romo said. “I think we’re going to be better than the last two.”