IRVING, Texas -- Tony Romo did what quarterbacks do after the game, taking the blame for the loss. The words came out in a tone that reflected the dejection he felt.
"I'm really, really disappointed in myself right now," Romo said. "You work so hard, and to play like that -- I'm really not OK with it right now. I'll try to rectify and get better. We'll be better. I'll be better."
Those exact words were said the night Cowboys Stadium opened for real, Sept. 20, 2009, in front of 105,121 fans against New York's other team, the Giants, in a 33-31 loss on a last-second field goal.
Romo went on to throw six interceptions the rest of the season, and the Cowboys won the NFC East for the second time in three years and their first playoff game since 1995.
But against the Giants with a national television audience watching, Romo had one of the worst games of his career. He completed only 13 of his 29 passes for 127 yards. He had one touchdown and three interceptions. His 29.6 passer rating was worse than the 2008 season finale at Philadelphia that ended in a 44-6 debacle.
Just as the football world came crashing down on Romo following the Giants game, it is crashing down even harder in 2011.
"That's just how we do it and I'm the same way," Romo said. "I look at other people. You're going to be defined by those things until you succeed, until you win a championship, until you go out there and perform on that level. I understand that. That's part of playing this position, part of being the quarterback for a football team in the NFL. I accept that and I know that and that's why I work as hard as I can and that's why going forward that it will be different than it was last Sunday."
There can be no middle ground when it comes to people's opinions on Romo. Just check out the comments that will be on the bottom of this story. I'll give it a second or two before -- in all caps for effect -- somebody writes: DA BOYS WILL NEVER WIN A SUPER BOWL WITH ROMO.
Romo is either the most overrated quarterback to ever play in the NFL or the biggest reason to believe the Cowboys will one day soon play in a Super Bowl again.
This week the talk is that Romo ALWAYS falters in the clutch, NEVER makes the right decision and IS awful at the end of games.
Romo has to fight that perception mostly because of the playoff loss at Seattle and the bobbled snap in 2006, the divisional loss to the New York Giants in 2007 and the 2009 divisional loss at Minnesota.
I get it. Quarterbacks, especially here, are judged by Super Bowls and playoff wins. Romo gets it, too. You win a Super Bowl and you get the benefit of the doubt.
But ALWAYS and NEVER are just inaccurate.
Since 2006 no quarterback -- not Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers, has a better fourth-quarter passer rating than Romo (100.0). Only Brees (39) and Philip Rivers (39) have more fourth-quarter touchdown passes than Romo's 34. Only Brees (5,905), Manning (4,886) and Rivers (4,751) have more fourth-quarter yards than Romo's 4,712.
Romo has thrown 17 fourth-quarter interceptions, which is fewer than Brees (25), Brett Favre (25), Eli Manning (27), Jay Cutler (22) and Ben Roethlisberger (22) among others. Brady has just 11. Peyton Manning has 13 and is not likely to add to that total this year because of neck surgery.
Romo has led nine fourth-quarter comebacks.
This is not meant to absolve Romo of blame or accept the mistakes. He CANNOT fumble on the 3-yard line. He CANNOT make that throw after getting flushed to his right at that moment.
But before you write off the Cowboys' 2011 season with 15 games to go, remember 2009.
After the loss to the Giants, Romo threw 22 touchdown passes and had eight games without an interception. He threw for 4,003 yards. He completed 64.4 percent of his passes. He had eight games with a passer rating of 104.0 or better.
The Cowboys won 10 games. And whipped Philadelphia in the wild-card round of the playoffs.
It may seem that you've seen Romo do NOTHING but fail in the fourth quarter his entire career, but he has shown that he can come back, too.
Romo gets another chance Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.
Todd Archer covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.