Magical finish eludes Tony Romo

BALTIMORE -- Oh, how the story would be different if Dan Bailey's 51-yard field goal try settled between the uprights in the final seconds Sunday.

Tony Romo would have been hailed the hero two weeks after he bore the brunt of the Cowboys' "Monday Night Football" loss to Chicago on Oct. 1, thanks to five interceptions.

If that kick does not float to the left, the talk is about Romo's fourth-quarter magic returning when the Cowboys needed it most against Baltimore, one of the AFC's best teams, in one of the toughest venues in the NFL.

That 18-play drive would have been the highlight of highlights, with him and Jason Witten doing what they do best in converting once on third down and twice on fourth-and-10. The talk would have centered on the Cowboys' -- and Romo's -- ability to overcome a third-and-27 on a drive that ended in a Dez Bryant touchdown.

Even Bryant's dropped two-point conversion would not have drawn much attention because the Cowboys recovered the ensuing onside kick and Romo had them in position to end Baltimore's 13-game home winning streak.

This was going to be like that game in Buffalo back in 2007, when Romo overcame five interceptions to deliver with two scoring drives in the final 3:45, capped by Nick Folk's 53-yard game winner.

But clock management issues arose again and the Cowboys let 15 seconds drift off the clock before calling a timeout with six seconds to play, forcing Bailey to take a shot from 51 yards.

Had they picked up another 5-10 yards, maybe Bailey's kick does not drift wide, but it did, and Romo had to make the walk to the team bus, carrying a bag of Popeyes' chicken, knowing the Cowboys are 2-3, just like last year, when they finished 8-8.

"It's disappointing," Romo said. "It's just hard when you do a lot of good things well and you don't come out with a win. Each week is an important, important week in the National Football League. It eats at you and sits in the pit of your stomach when you lose. We've got to come back from this and get ready. Now, next week we've got to go win a football game."

That's the mindset after such a loss. Forget it and move on. It's really that way for a win, too, but at least the plane ride home is enjoyable and the week of practice that much easier.

Now, the Cowboys have to carry the fact that their last victory will be almost a month in the past when they play at Carolina next week.

So many people wanted to see how Romo would respond after his five-pick performance against the Bears. He responded like he always does after a poor outing: with a much better outing, even though it was not perfect.

He completed 25 of 36 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns against the Ravens with a 97.1 passer rating. He was sacked once.

He was also intercepted again, marking the sixth straight game, dating back to last year, in which he threw it to the other team. And the Ravens turned that interception into a touchdown, which is the sixth time the opponent has scored immediately after a Romo turnover or on the subsequent drive.

Too many penalties, especially in the red zone, forced the offense to overcome itself in some ways, but it was the Cowboys' best offensive effort since the Sept. 5 season opener at the New York Giants.

The Cowboys ran the ball 42 times for 227 yards, at times needing their third and fourth tailbacks to carry the ball with DeMarco Murray (foot) and Felix Jones (cramps) out of the game.

"Being able to run the ball makes it a completely different game for the quarterback," Romo said.

The Cowboys still needed Romo to be Romo to score points, and they needed Romo to be at his Romo best down eight with 4:41 to play. He completed 11 of 16 passes for 94 yards that ended in Bryant's second touchdown of the game.

"You just love to play the game in general, but it's what makes the National Football League great, every week so many games come down to a drive or like tonight come down to a play, a kick," Romo said. "That's what makes it exciting to play. I love being in position where you can help your team win games at the end. I think that's why you play the game, so you can be put in that situation."

Romo delivered the Cowboys there, but the kick floated to the left and the story lost its happy ending.