Tony Romo has to play big vs. Giants

IRVING, Texas -- We can only hope Jason Garrett and Tony Romo are posturing. They want us to believe every NFL game is created equal.

Well, they ain't.

Some games are more important than others. This is one of them, no matter what Garrett and Romo say.

If the Dallas Cowboys beat the New York Giants on Sunday night, they'll grab a two-game lead in the NFC East with three games to play.

If they lose, the Giants will move into first place and seize command of the division, especially with the Cowboys having to visit New York in the final game of the season.

Doesn't it seem that there's a smidgen more at stake than in last week's game against Arizona? Uh-huh.

And that's why the Cowboys -- more than ever -- need Romo to turn in a signature performance before a national television audience.

The football world, which spent the week criticizing Garrett for his mismanagement of the final 26 seconds of regulation in last week's 19-13 overtime loss to Arizona, will be watching.

This is an opportunity for Romo and the Cowboys to show they're more than just another mediocre NFL team. It's their opportunity to deliver a standing eight-count to the reeling Giants, who have lost four consecutive games, and regain some leaguewide credibility.

At least that's how Romo should think.

"I think you shortchange yourself if you put more effort in one game than another," Romo said Thursday afternoon. "You work as hard as you can to prepare to give yourself the best chance to win on Sunday."

C'mon, man. Really?

You think Pittsburgh feels that way about Baltimore. Or Chicago feels that way about Green Bay. Or the Jets feel that way about the Patriots.

Dude, every game ain't the same. This game, for now, is as big as it gets for the Cowboys.

That's why Romo must lead the way, which is what the best players should do.

This isn't a new situation for Romo. He's played in important regular-season games before.

In 2007 against Green Bay, Romo was 19-of-30 for 309 yards with four touchdowns and an interception as the Cowboys moved to 12-1, essentially clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

And in 2009, he was 24-of-34 for 311 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in a 24-0 win over Philadelphia that gave the Cowboys the NFC East title in the final game of the regular season.

But he was among those who performed horribly in the final game of the 2008 season, when Philadelphia thumped the Cowboys 44-6 in a game the Cowboys needed to win for a playoff berth.

"They all feel pretty big," Romo said. "People are probably talking about it more because these teams are first and second in the division, which makes it fun.

"I feel like every game is this big. When we went to San Francisco, it was a really, really big game. And when we played Washington, it felt like a big game.

"They just matter so much. That's why you get excited about playing. That's why you grind each week."


For some reason, Romo has been terrific in November, winning 19 of the 21 games he's started. But he's awful in December, going 8-11.

We can blame it on the schedule. Or the Cowboys failing to play their starters in some games. Or other teams having more incentive to win.

None of that matters.

As a former curmudgeon coach around here used to say, "You are what your record says you are."

Besides, Romo's numbers across the board are much worse in December than any other month.

In November games, Romo has completed 66.9 percent of his passes with 51 touchdowns and 14 interceptions and a passer rating of 111.4. In December and January, he's a 62.0 percent passer with 24 touchdowns and 21 interceptions.

He's 0-1 in December this year after the Debacle in the Desert.

Call it all coincidence if you want, but it's not.

It's reality.

The beauty of sports, though, is a player can change his reality. What's been true about Romo for much of his career -- he's awful when it counts most at the end of the season -- doesn't have to be his reality this season.

A new reality starts with Romo leading Dallas over the Giants.

Jean-Jacques Taylor is a columnist for ESPNDallas.com.