Tony Romo's clear vision key to success

LANDOVER, Md. -- Amid all the chaos, with more than 80,000 people standing and screaming and a defense hell-bent on breaking him in half, Tony Romo's mind is clear.

He sees colors and numbers. Not in precise detail but enough for him to compute in his brain the good and the bad all in milliseconds.

"In some way, I've been given that from the Lord," the Dallas Cowboys quarterback said, "the ability to react and see things quickly."

How else to explain some of the things that happened in Sunday's 27-24 overtime victory against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field?

In the three biggest offensive snaps Sunday -- all on third down, Romo was able to pull off the unseen, continuing the highest level of play he has had since directing the Cowboys to an 11-5 finish in 2009 if not of his entire career.

The tangible numbers are this: 292 yards on 23-of-37 passing, three touchdowns, four sacks, no interceptions and a 113.8 passer rating.

But so much of what Romo did against the Redskins was the intangible. It's the stuff that makes Romo, Romo, as we have become accustomed to saying since he became a starter in 2006. It's what makes him one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and what maddens so many when he does not pull off such magic.

On the 7-yard touchdown pass to Laurent Robinson that tied the game at 17 after the Redskins ripped off three straight scores to take the lead, he pointed to the corner of the end zone after dashing away from Washington's pass rush.

He doesn't remember if that was before or after he saw Robinson flash in front of him, arm raised, but his throw was perfect and away from the burgundy jersey worn by DeAngelo Hall he saw in his peripheral vision that allowed Robinson to hang on to the pass.

"I just knew it would happen that way and made everybody do that stuff," Romo joked.

On the Cowboys' next drive, Romo spun to his left, turning his back on the field for a second to drift away from some mild pressure. With outside linebacker Brian Orakpo closing, Romo saw Jason Witten down the field but linebacker Perry Riley was in the way.

"I just kind of stopped him with my eyes going back, he stopped and then came back and by that point he's out of position," Romo said. "Jason's angle was great because he was kind of running away from him."

Think about that for a second. With all that is happening, Romo knows if he stops his feet and his eyes the defender will stop. This is what a player means when he talks about the game slowing down.

And Witten knew not to stop. He and Romo have played together for so long, he knew what would happen. They have developed a feel that great players develop over time without verbal communication.

"About a thousand," Witten said when asked how many times they have done that in practice. "I tell everybody stay with him because he'll find you."

In overtime, on third-and-15 from the Washington 49, Romo stepped to his left as the pocket collapsed and Dez Bryant broke off a route in front of DeAngelo Hall for a 26-yard gain.

"One of the best things Tony has is a feel what's going on around him in the pocket," coach Jason Garrett said. "I think over the course of his career he's developed into an outstanding pocket passer and he's done that without losing his ability to see things and use his instincts and feel for the game."

Three plays later, Romo was holding for Dan Bailey's game-winning field goal from 39 yards, delivering a victory he helped make possible by his precision but more by his improvisation.

"He made some little plays where he didn't force things," Garrett said. "Where he didn't have anything, he took a sack. Didn't do anything stupid with the football and lastly made a number of big plays."

Go back to the season opener at the New York Jets where he tried to do the right thing by running near the goal line but fumbled and then a forced throw to Bryant was intercepted by Darrelle Revis to set up the game-winning field goal. Think about the Detroit game when he had three second-half turnovers, including the last one on a back-foot throw while under pressure.

After those games, he promised to improve. He has done so through a punctured lung and fractured rib.

Now fully healthy, he is playing his best when his team has needed him most -- when the colors and numbers would have collided for just about anybody else.

Todd Archer covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.