SAN FRANCISCO -- Less than a week after throwing a game-changing last-minute interception, Tony Romo rallied America's Team over its past rival while playing with at least one fractured rib.
Romo took multiple hits in the first half of Dallas' eventual 27-24 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in overtime Sunday before eventually getting up slowly following a hit on a blindside blitz in the second quarter.
While the Cowboys confirmed that Romo fractured a rib during the victory, a source told ESPN's Ed Werder that the team believes he actually suffered two fractured ribs during the game.
Still, in a week when the much-maligned quarterback vowed to play his best game, Romo delivered a gutsy comeback that looked unlikely when he briefly came out from halftime and then returned to the locker room.
But just when the Cowboys (1-1) announced the quarterback was done for the day, there came No. 9 ready to take charge of the huddle
once again. Even though he had a hard time breathing and barking out the cadence.
In one frantic span, Romo emphatically left his mark on the storied Cowboys-49ers rivalry that dates back decades to all those epic matchups in the NFC title game that regularly set up Super Bowl victories by the winner.
"It's got to be one of those things that will follow him through his career. I know what it was here in the locker room at halftime. I know what he had to do to get back on the field," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said.
"I know what he had to do before (painkillers) took hold to relieve him from his pain. But, boy, did he come back. That was inspirational."
A source told ESPN's Werder that Romo never took any pain injections.
Yet, after the second-half kickoff, Romo emerged from the locker room and walked briefly into the huddle as Jon Kitna returned to the sideline, then Romo immediately came off under doctor's orders and headed back to the locker room.
Back on the sideline late in the third quarter, Romo tapped Jason Garrett on the shoulder and told the coach to put him back in the game.
"Eventually, what was convincing was, 'At some point I'm going to play with this thing, so why not now?' " Garrett said, quoting Romo. "It's about a quarterback but it's really about a football player and a competitor. And Tony is that. One of the best competitors I've ever been around."
This was an exact reverse of what happened a week earlier: a 27-24 road loss to the Jets after Dallas blew a late 14-point lead and watched New York kick the winning field goal. Romo's late interception contributed to that Week 1 collapse. Going on a few hours of sleep, he was back to work early Monday morning preparing for the 49ers.
Bailey kicked a tying 48-yard field goal Sunday as time expired in regulation after missing an early 21-yard attempt. That delighted the large contingent -- close to one-third -- of Cowboys fans in Candlestick Park.
Romo completed five of six passes on the tying drive, connecting on consecutive throws to Holley before finding him again in OT.
"Ribs are tough," Romo said. "It's just hard to breathe, and talk really. You have to talk loud, especially on the road."
Romo wasn't the only one playing hurt, either. Running back Felix Jones separated his shoulder early in the game, Jerry Jones said.
A source confirmed Felix Jones' shoulder separation to ESPN's Chris Mortensen.
Felix Jones was fitted for a harness on the sideline and was able to return for the second series. As the game wore on, however, he was limited and rookie DeMarco Murray and Tashard Choice handled the tailback duties.
Miles Austin made three touchdown receptions among his nine catches for 143 yards, leaping over a defender and diving into the end zone to pull Dallas within 24-21 with 6:55 to play. However, team sources told ESPN's Mortensen that Austin, who tweaked the hamstring on a fourth-quarter run, could be out through the Cowboys' bye week (Oct. 9).
Jones won't need to defend Romo after this one. He grimaced and limped. He needed help from a lineman to stand up as the vicious hits kept coming.
Romo completed 20 of 33 passes for 345 yards and Kitna found Austin for a 5-yard TD, but also threw two interceptions during his brief appearance. As Romo's teammates celebrated, cheered and hugged, he slowly made his way to midfield for postgame handshakes.
Romo returned for the last series of the third quarter, the final 15 minutes and OT. He didn't give Garrett much chance to say no.
"I just told him I was good to go. I think he asked some of the guys," Romo said. "I didn't give him too much of a chance. I just ran on the field."
The 49ers (1-1) were trying to move to 2-0 under new coach Jim Harbaugh after a 33-17 victory over defending NFC West champion Seattle last week.
Alex Smith threw for 179 yards and two touchdowns, including a 29-yard strike to Delanie Walker in the third quarter. Smith found himself in the familiar predicament of getting hit. He was sacked six times as San Francisco's offensive line often failed to protect him or give him ample time in the pocket to be effective.
Dallas had a final chance in regulation, getting the ball back with 4:03 to play starting from its own 26.
Romo, in the shotgun as he'd been most of the day, delivered on third-and-6 from the 43 with a 7-yard completion to Austin. They connected on another 7-yard gain the next play.
After Jones this week called Romo's performance against the Jets "outstanding," Romo made all the right calls in crunch time.
He played through multiple hits in the first half, when he threw a late 53-yard touchdown pass to Austin to bring Dallas within 14-7. The QB came up slowly after being clobbered on a blindside cornerback blitz by Carlos Rogers as he was throwing in the second quarter.
Romo looked to be headed for another tough day.
The Cowboys came up short on a 76-yard drive over the opening 7½ minutes after Bailey missed wide right on his 21-yard field goal attempt. Then, it was three straight three-and-outs.
When it mattered, Romo came through.
"He understands that all eyes are on him," said safety Donte Whitner, beat on the deep throw in OT.
"They expect him to lead them to the playoffs and ultimately a championship. For a guy like that, after the things that happened last week, you expected him to come back into the football game."
It was the first overtime game of the season. ... The 49ers were outgained in total yards 472-206. ... Dallas' DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher each had two sacks. ... San Francisco's Braylon Edwards limped off with a right knee injury after making a 21-yard catch in the first quarter. Harbaugh had no update afterward.
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.
How wheelchair football brought Bart Salgado hope
Check out Bart Salgado's story and how wheelchair football helped him deal with the loss of his legs.
Chicago Bears banking on rookies Kyler Gordon, Jaquan Brisker to help rebuilt secondary
Chicago's top picks, Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker, will have a chance to make an early impact in a scheme predicated on forcing turnovers.
Which NFL player is due for a big pay day soon?
Kimberley Martin details why she could see a new contract coming soon for Terry McLaurin.
Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson caps busy week as NFL investigation continues
Deshaun Watson's week included meeting with NFL investigators and playing golf in the Bahamas with his new Browns teammates.
Report: Michael Vick will leave retirement to join Fan Controlled Football
Michael Vick, the once-dynamic NFL quarterback whose involvement in a dogfighting ring halted a breathtaking career in its prime, has agreed to come out of retirement to join startup league Fan Controlled Football, a source told Reuters on Friday.
Denver Broncos think rookie Montrell Washington can unlock return game
For the talented returner out of Samford University, returns are "just like backyard football."