Tony Romo doesn't deserve praise

MINNEAPOLIS -- Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett praised quarterback Tony Romo for playing a smart, efficient game Sunday with one not-so-small exception.

You know, the play that pretty much gift-wrapped the game-winning points for the Minnesota Vikings.

Five games into what's shaping up to be an epic failure of a season, the Dallas Cowboys are running out of time and toes. They keep finding creative and foolish ways to shoot themselves in the foot, a troubling trend that continued in a 24-21 loss that dropped Dallas to 1-4.

But the Cowboys could have overcome the flurry of penalty flags. Romo's two turnovers, which the Vikings turned into 10 points, were the real killers.

You could make a strong argument that Romo, who succeeded in his mission to cut down turnovers last season, has regressed. He's been picked off five times in losses the past two weeks, three of which came deep in Dallas territory.

"I'm sort of snakebitten right now," said Romo, who completed 24 of 32 passes for 220 yards and three touchdowns against the Vikings. "It's a hard thing to come back from. We've got to find a way to not turn the ball over. I need to be better at that."

In fairness to Romo, left tackle Doug Free gets the lion's share of the blame for Sunday's first pick. Free didn't even wave -- heck, he didn't get out of his stance -- as defensive end Jared Allen blew by him en route to unleashing a vicious blow to Romo's blind side.

Bad got worse when Romo's throw, which was intended for tight end Jason Witten on a drag route, ricocheted off a lineman's helmet. Vikings linebacker E.J. Henderson came down with the rebound, leading to a Minnesota touchdown drive that covered a grand total of 16 yards.

"The game has funny bounces sometimes," said Romo, who has had three tipped balls turn into interceptions the past two weeks. "You have to be able to overcome them. We haven't for whatever reason been able to do that."

Romo was simply outsmarted on his second interception.

Henderson bluffed a blitz, getting Romo to bite and try to hit Witten on a hot route. But Henderson bolted back into coverage, catching the underthrown ball at the Dallas 30 midway through the fourth quarter, setting up the field goal that was the difference in the game.

"I didn't see him," Romo said.

Owner Jerry Jones preferred to focus on the positive when discussing Romo's performance. So did Garrett, gushing about the pretty deep ball Romo threw on rookie Dez Bryant's first touchdown catch. Garrett chalked up the two turnovers to bad luck and a great play by the opponent.

"It was unfortunate those two plays happened," Garrett said. "He continues to make an emphasis and we continue to make an emphasis. We just have to find a way to make sure he eliminates them, but he understands the importance of taking care of the football."

Sorry, but 1-4 quarterbacks don't deserve to be patted on the butt. Quarterbacks with $67 million contracts and star-studded supporting casts don't get passes for critical mistakes in losses.

Romo gets that. He's frustrated and not getting much sleep but vowing that he'll figure out a way to dig the Cowboys out of this deep hole.

"I know we'll go as far as Tony can take us," Jones said.

So far this season, Romo has put up a bunch of pretty stats while steering the Cowboys to the bottom of the NFC East.

Tim MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his mailbag.