Romo still believes in himself

IRVING, Texas -- Tony Romo learned from Troy Aikman that it's not always "lollipops and chocolates and fun times" for the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys.

These days, Romo's chats with former QBs amount to therapy while he endures talk that he's gone from an undisciplined turnover machine to a conservative handoff fiend who misses receivers when he does throw. Or talk that he didn't know it was fourth down before the final end zone incompletion in Sunday's 17-10 loss at Denver Broncos.

Or three-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady second-guessing his frequent passes in the direction of Pro Bowl Denver cornerback Champ Bailey last weekend.

On Thursday, Romo said those chats help since the quarterbacks tell him their time was no bed of roses, either.

"There's a lot of hard work and effort and a lot of people beating you down," Romo said Thursday, surrounded by cameras and recorders at his locker. "You have to have a stronger belief in yourself than the disbelief of others."

Heading to winless Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, the Cowboys are 2-2 when their legion of critics figured they would have to be 3-1 or 4-0 to have a chance to end a 13-year stretch without a playoff victory, the longest in franchise history.

Romo was at the focal point of both losses, his three interceptions leading to three touchdowns for New York in the Giants' 33-31 win and his fumble jump-starting the Broncos when they trailed 10-0 in the second quarter.

"Last week doesn't indicate what kind of football team this is," Romo said. "It doesn't make us waver in our belief of what we can accomplish this season. We feel very strongly going forward. Now we've got to go out and do it."

Dallas won its opener at Tampa Bay thanks to several long passes from Romo, but a 21-7 victory against Carolina featured just one offensive touchdown and a lot more success running the ball than throwing it. Suddenly everyone wanted to know whether the Cowboys were transforming Romo into the leader of a grind-it-out offense.

Now everyone wants to know where Romo is mentally after another pedestrian passing day in Denver that included several bad throws to open receivers.

"Tony's fine," Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said. "He's going to do well because he works so hard at what he does. He's a talented guy that cares. I think he'll do better and better."

At the very least, Phillips, the Cowboys and their quarterback insist Romo can count to four. Video from a local TV station caught Romo holding up three fingers and talking to officials after Romo threw incomplete on third and fourth down from the Denver 2 in the final seconds.

Talk radio lit up with speculation that Romo didn't know it was fourth down, and the chatter was loud enough for the team to issue a statement explaining that Romo saw a down marker with a "3" and thought the referees might have made a mistake. Phillips and Romo told basically the same story the next two days.

"That's kind of ridiculous," Phillips said. "Somebody saw him talking to [officials] and just went off on some ludicrous statement that Tony didn't know what was going on or something. It's amazing what happens."

On his radio show, Brady said he found it amazing that the Cowboys kept throwing at Denver's Bailey, who ruined a Dallas scoring chance with an interception in the third quarter and broke up both of the final two passes in the end zone.

"I can't imagine you go into a game thinking, 'Oh, let's really go after this guy and see if he can make the plays," said Brady, who gave up a 100-yard interception return to Bailey in a playoff loss at Denver four seasons ago.

Romo said the chatter wasn't affecting him. Leonard Davis, one of his offensive linemen, agreed.

"I don't think anything's wrong with him," Davis said. "People are going to talk. Everybody's got their opinion. Nobody really cares about anybody's opinion because their opinion is not the reality. I don't think him or anyone else cares about what anybody else thinks."