IRVING, Texas -- The aches from playing the quarterback position don't seem to ache as much after a victory.
After Sunday's 23-20 overtime win against the Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was able to walk up to the podium with no visible limp or bruises. As he took questions he was able to tell a few jokes, forgetting only to tell everybody to try the veal and tip their waiters and waitresses.
Romo was sacked a career-high seven times by the Browns and hit a ton more than that. Even on his only touchdown pass -- a 28-yarder to Dez Bryant that gave the Cowboys a lead with 6:46 to play -- Romo ended up on the turf and was unable to see the end of the play.
Romo completed 35 of 50 passes for 313 yards against the Browns and had his third straight game without an interception, his longest since a four-game stretch in Weeks 13-16 last season. It was the first time Romo had won a game when being sacked five or more times. It was only the second time he won when throwing 50 or more passes.
That the win was so much more difficult than just about everybody expected mattered little to Romo.
"I'm not surprised by anything in the NFL," Romo said. "I think every week is hard, and it is a challenge. I'm not going to make any excuses for winning. I know that it's hard no matter who you play. At the same time we need to play better going forward if we are trying to do the things that we hope to achieve."
At 5-5, everything is still there for the Cowboys to achieve. If they beat Washington on Thanksgiving, then they will be a half-game out of first place in the NFC East before the New York Giants play Green Bay on Nov. 25.
Amazing when you consider how the Cowboys have played at times this season, and even more amazing when you consider how a Romo turnover nearly led to their third home loss of the season.
Interceptions (10 of them) had been Romo's problem at home entering Sunday's game, but a fumble after the Cowboys' defense gave the offense the ball at the Cleveland 18 with 5:45 to play eventually put the game in jeopardy with the Browns taking a 20-17 lead.
"Tony didn't protect the ball, and he needed to," coach Jason Garrett said. "In that situation the minimum you want to come out of that with is a field goal. We didn't get that done."
But Romo was able to get the Cowboys into position for a tying field goal by Dan Bailey from 32 yards with the help of 50 penalty yards on the Browns. And on the Cowboys' second drive of overtime after a 20-yard punt return by Dwayne Harris, Romo hit Miles Austin twice to set up Bailey's game winner from 38 yards.
For most of the game, Romo made most of the right plays. The fumble turned out to be a hiccup instead of a gastrointestinal flare-up because of the win.
"When you play quarterback and you have a lot of negative plays and you are behind the chains a lot and they are hitting you a little bit and you don't have a lot going on in the run game, it's easy to get kind of out of yourself and do some things that you shouldn't be doing," Garrett said. "But I thought throughout the game he played with really good poise, kept taking what they gave him."
Romo was part of the solution for an offense that was stagnant in the first half. It finally clicked in the third quarter. On their two touchdown drives of the second half, they used three-wide receiver sets on 18 of 20 plays.
Romo completed 12 of 13 passes for 117 yards during the stretch that ended with Bryant's touchdown grab.
After calling the play, Romo had Bryant alter his route to a stutter-and-go, believing Browns cornerback Sheldon Brown would bite. Brown did slightly, and Romo and Bryant had their second long TD combination in as many weeks. Not that Romo saw it, taking a hit as he let go of the ball.
"It's not like you're thinking, 'I'll take a hit here if I wait it out,'" Romo said, "but pretty early on [in the game] you could tell we were going to take some hits."
There is such a fine line between winning and losing, and Romo walked on both sides of the aisle Sunday.
The Cowboys' win made everything feel a little bit better, at least until Thursday.