Plays that shaped the season: No. 1

Editor's note: In this series, Jean-Jacques Taylor counts down 10 plays that shaped the Cowboys' season.

Play No. 1: Tony Romo back injury

Situation: Third-and-1 from Dallas' 48

Score: Dallas trails, 23-14

Time: 11:59 left in fourth quarter

Taylor's Take: There was no huge hit by an unblocked blitzing linebacker, which would have been much easier to understand. Instead, Tony Romo twisted his upper torso when a defensive lineman clipped his leg as he maneuvered away from pressure in the pocket to complete a short first-down pass to Miles Austin. Romo was clearly in discomfort after the play, but he still managed to lead the Cowboys on two fourth-quarter scoring drives to beat Washington and keep their playoff hopes alive.

Season Impact: After the game, Romo said he tweaked his back but didn’t think it was going to be too bad. A few days later, he had surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back, ending his season. No team wants to play a win-and-get-in game without its starting quarterback, especially a player with 31 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. As well as Kyle Orton played against Philadelphia the following week, the Cowboys would have been in a much better position to win the game if Romo had started and finished the game.

Quote: "I tweaked it in the game and then for whatever reason, the twist or whatever it was, definitely just made it not feel comfortable." -- Tony Romo