Romo is smart choice this December

IRVING, Texas -- Tony Romo knows the deal, and he willingly accepts it: Playoff wins are all that matter at this point in his career.

Not 300-yard passing games. Or touchdown passes. Or fourth-quarter comebacks.

You must respect Romo's approach because he doesn't hide from his 1-3 playoff record or his overall lack of late-season success.

Until his playoff record changes substantially, the narrative among much of the media and "Romo haters" is that Romo is one of the NFL's most talented choke artists.

Remember, fairness has nothing to do with this discussion. It never has.

No quarterback has more than Romo's 11 fourth-quarter, game-winning drives since 2011. His 95.8 passer rating is the fifth highest in NFL history.

This season, Romo has 17 more touchdown passes than interceptions -- only Peyton Manning and Drew Brees can top that.

In some ways, it's all irrelevant. For the best of the best, it's about winning in the playoffs. And Romo can't do that until he masters December.

He gets another chance Monday night on the road against the Chicago Bears.

"I think it's real and I don't mean to be trite," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said of Romo's December struggles Tuesday morning on his radio show on KRLD-FM in Dallas. "You can probably tie that [into] why we have had disappointments in December."

Traditionally, Romo plays his best football in November, where he's 24-5 as a starter with 55 touchdowns, 17 interceptions and a 102.9 passer rating. He hasn't played nearly as well in December and January, where he's 12-16 in regular-season games with 45 touchdowns and 26 interceptions.

He's been much better since 2009, compiling a 106.3 passer rating in December -- second only to Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers in that span.

No shame in that.

Last year, Romo played well during the first three games in December, compiling 10 touchdowns with one interception.

Romo hadn't thrown an interception in 170 passes, but Washington intercepted two of his first five passes in the final game of the season. And with Dallas trailing 21-18 with three minutes left, he threw his third interception of the game.

All of us understand that football is the ultimate team game, but virtually every rule change the league has made in the past decade has been designed to create additional offense.

More than ever, the game is about the quarterback. Romo has been among the league's top quarterbacks for years, he just hasn't always played like it at winning time. In the biggest of the big regular-season games, he's faltered.

That will change this season. He's a different dude this year. You can tell.

The indiscriminate throws have been few. He's taking sacks instead of forcing balls. You could even call his game boring.

Romo rarely throws it deep. He won't even force it to Dez Bryant, although his bosses -- Jerry and Stephen Jones -- keep suggesting he do so.

He hasn't lost a fumble since Week 2 in Kansas City. Of the seven interceptions Romo has thrown, you could fault others on four of them and another was a Hail Mary at the end of the first half against Philadelphia.

His average per attempt is a career-low 7.2 yards and, sometimes, he seemingly throws the ball away at the first sign of trouble.

Maybe, just maybe, the 33-year-old quarterback in his seventh full season as a starter has finally figured it out.

It's OK to punt. He doesn't have to make every play. Sometimes, a sack is a good play.

Romo, loved and loathed like no other quarterback in the league, has positioned the Cowboys to end a three-year playoff drought and win the NFC East title.

Who cares if the division is the worst it has been in years. Someone has to win it.

The Cowboys are tied with Philadelphia for first place with four games left. Based on what we know today, Romo will be the best quarterback on the field in each of the Cowboys' last four games.

Better than Chicago's Josh McCown or Jay Cutler, who has missed the past three games and four or the past five. Better than Green Bay's Matt Flynn, who's expected to start the following week in Dallas as Rodgers recovers from a broken collarbone.

Better than Washington's Robert Griffin III, who's struggled all season, and better than Philadelphia's Nick Foles. So what if Foles has 19 touchdowns and no interceptions.

In a one-game, win-and-get-in scenario at AT&T Stadium, the smart choice is Romo -- at least this December.