He simply needed a mirror.
"We win that football game if I don't do what I did. It's hard to swallow," the Dallas quarterback said Sunday night after his fumble at the New York 3, then his interception to Darrelle Revis led to a bitter loss. "This game really came down to one of two plays, and those plays are ones I gave them the ball."
The Cowboys led 24-10 just 10 seconds into the fourth quarter and Romo was performing well in his first real game since breaking his left collarbone last season and missing the final 10 weeks of the season. Then, it all fell apart, with former Cowboys kicker Nick Folk winning the game with a 50-yard field goal with 27 seconds remaining.
First came the fumble with Dallas ahead 24-17 and about 9 minutes remaining. Romo scrambled on third down, then headed to the end zone and was hit by Mike DeVito. That jarred loose the ball, and Sione Pouha recovered.
"I was trying to protect the ball and not squeeze it in because it would be a risky throw to try to get it to the end zone," Romo said.
New York didn't get any points then, but did tie it on a blocked punt — hardly Romo's responsibility.
Then came the decisive error.
The Cowboys had a chance for a winning drive with 59 seconds left, but Romo was intercepted on the first play by Darrelle Revis, who returned it 20 yards to Dallas' 34. Four plays later, Folk kicked the deciding field goal.
"It was a comeback route," said Romo, who was throwing to Dez Bryant. "The coverage dictated what Dez did and he kept going. It was a dumb decision by me."
But a brilliant decision in Revis' eyes.
"As long as I keep playing, people are going to test me," the All-Pro cornerback said. "They feel confident in their game plan and what they want to do. When the ball comes to my side, I'm not shocked."
The Jets' comeback — the Cowboys' collapse — was somewhat shocking given how Dallas performed for three quarters. And that the Cowboys were 246-0-1 when they had a 14-point lead in the fourth period, according to STATS LLC.
Jason Garrett, in his first game as full-time coach, said such a defeat must not be crushing.
"We played through the success and adversities of football and kept competing," Garrett said. "We clearly need to play better at the end to win the ballgame."
The Jets' win came in the final game of the NFL's first full Sunday with the commemoration of the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks as an emotional backdrop.
New York tied it with 5 minutes left when Isaiah Trufant, promoted from the practice squad Saturday, ran in a blocked punt from 18 yards for a touchdown. Joe McKnight charged up the middle unblocked and got his hands on Mat McBriar's kick, which bounced right into Trufant's hands.
It appeared the Cowboys were going to take a two-touchdown lead midway through the fourth quarter when Jason Witten's 64-yard catch put the ball at the Jets 3. Three plays later, Romo fumbled.
The Jets turned over the ball a few minutes later when a blitzing Danny McCray sacked Mark Sanchez, hitting him from behind and knocking the ball loose. But the Cowboys couldn't take advantage when they had two penalties and were forced to punt — the play that swung the momentum in the Jets' favor.
Early in the week, Jets coach Rex Ryan said he felt a responsibility to the New York area to win on opening night, especially with the team honoring the victims of the attacks and their families before the game and at halftime. He also wanted to get the better of his twin brother, Rob, with their father Buddy in the crowd.
Sanchez was 26 of 44 for 335 yards and touchdown tosses to Dustin Keller and Plaxico Burress, who played in a regular-season game for the first time in nearly three years. He last played in 2008 for the Giants before he spent 20 months in prison on a gun charge.
The Jets also played a clean game with no penalties, compared to seven for the Cowboys, who went 5-3 last season when Garrett was the interim head coach.
A few plays after putting a bone-crunching hit on Cowboys defensive back Michael Jenkins while blocking on a 28-yard catch by Santonio Holmes, Burress had a 26-yard catch as he spun into the end zone to make it 24-17 with 11:56 left. The play was reviewed by officials and upheld.
Burress put both arms out with the ball in one hand, bowed and yelled to the crowd in celebration, and then gave the ball to his 4-year-old son Elijah in the stands.
Romo was 23 of 36 for 342 yards and two touchdowns, picking on Antonio Cromartie on both to help give Dallas a 24-10 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Romo threw for a 3-yard touchdown to Bryant on the Cowboys' opening drive. Miles Austin also outwrestled Cromartie for a 36-yard TD in the third period.
Witten finished with six catches for 110 yards, Austin had five for 90, and Bryant caught three passes for 71 yards.
New York responded after Austin's score with a 33-yard pass to Jeff Cumberland that sparked a 64-yard drive. Folk capped it with a 34-yard field goal that made it 17-10.
Burress got his first reception with 44 seconds to go in the third quarter, an 18-yarder, but Sanchez's next pass was intercepted by Sean Lee. The Jets missed several tackles as Lee scurried down the right sideline for 37 yards to the New York 1 as the period ended.
But after an incompletion to Witten, Felix Jones went off left end to make it 24-10.
The game was played before a full MetLife Stadium, with most fans in their seats before the game for an emotionally charged pregame show featuring an a capella version of the "Star Spangled Banner" by Lady Antebellum that had a crowd of nearly 80,000 silently listening, many of the fans saluting, some crying.
Players from both sides held an American flag that blanketed the field while the anthem was sung.
At halftime, the stadium lights were turned off, with dozens gathering at midfield and forming two huge human squares — in honor of the Twin Towers. The squares were made visible by those involved holding up lights, along with three spotlights in the middle of each formation.
Five For Fighting's John Ondrasik then sat at a piano on the field and performed his song, "Superman (It's Not Easy)," which became an anthem for many after the attacks with its lyrics about heroes.