Romo preseason debut is success

ARLINGTON, Texas -- You wanted to see Tony Romo move around Saturday night in his preseason debut against the Baltimore Ravens.

You wanted to see him get jostled, and you wanted to see him throw the deep ball. And deep down, you probably wanted to see him lead the first-team offense on a scoring drive too.

He did all of that in just 14 plays and emerged unscathed.

So the evening must be considered a rousing success, despite Baltimore's 37-30 win at AT&T Stadium.

This season is all about the Dallas Cowboys' offense because we know the defense is going to stink. For the Cowboys to end their string of three consecutive 8-8 seasons, Romo must stay healthy and the offense must be prolific.

Obviously, we won't know whether Romo's back is going to hold up until the regular season begins, but the starting offense has looked dynamic throughout training camp and has been good in each of the first two preseason games.

The Cowboys have taken a cautious approach with Romo throughout training camp, given that the 34-year-old quarterback has had two back surgeries in the past year and the alternative is Brandon Weeden.

So far, so good.

Romo completed four of five passes for 80 yards and a touchdown in his preseason debut. He led the starting offense to a touchdown but also botched a handoff that resulted in a Ravens touchdown.

Considering he's missed so much practice time during training camp, we shouldn't really be surprised he was involved in a mishap such as that. Actually, the real surprise is probably that more mistakes didn't occur.

Romo has become one of the NFL's best quarterbacks because of his ability to move in the pocket and create extra time that often results in big plays. He provided a glimpse of his ability to still do that on the Cowboys' third play.

Facing pressure, Romo stepped up into the pocket. Then, he moved right and delivered a perfect pass to Dez Bryant, who was running across the field. The catch and run netted 22 yards.

"I thought he looked like himself and moved around in the pocket," coach Jason Garrett said. "He made some good throws that looked like he saw the field well. He felt the pocket really well and looked comfortable moving the team."

That drive ended when Romo appeared to put the ball on DeMarco Murray's hip instead of his belly. The ball plopped onto the ground, and Courtney Upshaw scooped it up.

Romo instinctively tried to tackle him -- a bad idea, if one ever existed -- but he slid off the 272-pound outside linebacker's body, and Upshaw scooted 26 yards for a touchdown.

All that really meant is Romo could get his second drive completed earlier than expected and get off the field.

He moved the Cowboys 83 yards in nine plays while converting two third downs.

The first was a 6-yard pass to Bryant. The second was a flawlessly executed screen pass to Murray, who gained 21 yards to the Baltimore 33.

Two plays later, Romo lofted a high pass to Bryant, who was covered one-on-one along the right sideline. He leaped high and snagged the ball at its highest point, over cornerback Dominique Franks, and stepped into the end zone to complete the 31-yard scoring play and tie the score at 7-7.

"Tony made the call, and he thought it was going to work," Bryant said. "I can't tell you the play, but he felt good with it. He wanted me to go get it, so I went and got it for him."

As excited as you might be about Romo, Bryant, Murray and the offensive line, you should be more excited about the prospects of play-caller Scott Linehan.

Murray carried the ball eight of the 14 plays he was in the game, and Linehan continues to use screen passes and play-action passes. He introduced the bubble screen Saturday night.

All of it, though, is coming with the running game as the epicenter of the offense. The key, of course, is if Linehan will employ the same philosophy when the real games begin in a few weeks.

It's easily the best approach.

It keeps the defense off the field, it puts the ball in the hands of all the Cowboys' playmakers, and it protects Romo from himself by not asking him to make every play.

"We have to continue to throw everything in, then narrow it down and find out what kind of team we are going to be," Romo said. "We will find out soon, but it has been good. We have been executing at a high level."

They must cover for this defense.