A weekly analysis of the Cowboys’ quarterback play:
Rewind: Tony Romo was efficient in the Cowboys' 30-21 loss to the San Diego Chargers, completing 27 of 37 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns, but he was limited by a lack of opportunities. The poor outing by the defense resulted in Romo running only seven plays in the third quarter and just 14 by the time there was 6:49 to play in the game. When the Cowboys did have the ball, they were done in by drops and penalties that forced the end of drives. Romo was sacked three times, matching his season high, but two were coverage sacks and not the fault of the offensive line.
Fast-forward: The Broncos are allowing 316 yards per game through the air so far this season, but some of that is a function of how well their Peyton Manning-led offense is playing. Opponents are forced to throw the ball to play catch-up, and Denver is content to allow some yards. But the Broncos are allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete just 57.8 percent of their passes, and their six interceptions are tied for sixth in the league. And that has come without Champ Bailey, who has yet to play this season. Romo has been careful with the ball so far, with just one interception in 152 pass attempts, and is completing 72 percent of his passes.
Matching wits: This game will be billed as Romo versus Manning, but Romo will have to avoid trying to match Manning throw for throw and score for score. He has to make sure he does not give the Broncos any short fields to work with, while also being aggressive enough to take shots. He’s done this before actually. In just the fourth start of his career in 2006, he beat Manning, who brought an undefeated Indianapolis Colts team to Texas Stadium, 21-14. Romo wasn’t great, but he was effective, completing 19 of 23 passes for 226 yards with no touchdowns and one pick. The Cowboys held the ball for 33 minutes, 42 seconds thanks to a persistent running game (36 carries, 117 yards).
Prediction: I said Romo would have his first 300-yard game last week against San Diego and he didn’t, so I’ll make the claim this week that he reaches that mark. A possible return of Miles Austin will help, but Dez Bryant will give the Broncos' secondary trouble. Romo has at least one touchdown pass in 17 straight games and has 59 multiple-touchdown games in his career. He will get to 18 and 60 against Denver, but it’s hard to imagine it will be enough to beat Manning.