Tony Romo has now directed decisive fourth-quarter drives in the past two Dallas wins.
The Cowboys don't even want to think about where they would be without the latest successes from Romo, whose resume is also filled with some notable late-game failures.
Dallas just knows this: With Romo's winning drive to Dan Bailey's 35-yard field goal on the final play at the New York Giants on Sunday, the Cowboys are back in control of the NFC East with five games left, starting with a short week before their Thanksgiving game against Oakland.
"I'd rather not have him have to have that opportunity to have to make that drive that he made," a relieved Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said after the game, three days removed from declaring that coach Jason Garrett would return in 2014 even if Dallas missed the playoffs for the fourth straight year. "We didn't need to lose that football game."
Just as he did against Minnesota two games earlier, Romo went to the huddle for a critical late possession with a simple message: The Cowboys were going to get a touchdown.
He needed points in some form against the Vikings because Dallas was down 23-20, and got it with a 7-yard pass to Dwayne Harris with 35 seconds left to finish a 90-yard drive in just 2:09.
The Cowboys weren't behind against the Giants, but had blown a 15-point lead in the second half and let New York get even at 21-21. Romo was 80 yards from the end zone on a frigid field, and got the Cowboys in position to run out the clock before Bailey's kick for a 24-21 win.
Combine those two winning drives, and Romo was 13 of 17 for 157 yards. And instead of tumbling toward another potentially tumultuous offseason, Dallas is tied with Philadelphia at 6-5, has a 4-0 division record and gets the Eagles at home to finish the regular season.
"I think you either feel comfortable in those situations or you don't," said Romo, who has 23 touchdowns and seven interceptions. "Just through all the experiences and all the times you've put yourself in that position as a team and we feel good. We've done that a couple of times these last three weeks or four weeks and you just go out and do it."
Besides the weather, there was one other big difference for Romo in his latest winning drive. He had Garrett in his ear on the headset instead of Wade Wilson.
The Cowboys used the bye week to juggle the play-calling mechanics after a 49-17 loss to New Orleans that was their worst under Garrett. Bill Callahan was still choosing the plays, but Garrett replaced Wilson as the relay man on the sideline, with Wilson joining Callahan in the booth for a better view of the defense.
"It is a role that I am comfortable in," said Garrett, who gave up the play-calling duties to Callahan this year. "Just having been a quarterback and been in that situation, you don't want some guy in your ear the whole game. So, I understand that. Essentially, I was just giving him the play like Wade gave him the play. But you do get a chance to add something here or there."
Garrett said several times that the Cowboys hadn't changed much. Romo agreed.
"To the quarterback on the field it doesn't sound terribly different because it's just coming in," he said. "When I come to the sideline I just get on the headset and talk to Wade. And Bill and Jason always are a part of it."
Dez Bryant had two third-down catches before the Cowboys were in field goal range against the Giants, making up for a bobble that turned into Romo's only interception, another drop, and a fumble that went backward 26 yards and turned a possible first down into third-and-30.
After the play, Romo screamed at Bryant while the receiver looked down and nodded.
"I was heartbroken," said Bryant, who had nine catches for 102 yards. "I had to keep myself together because those guys were believing in me and I was believing in them and I had to keep my composure and go out there and play my game."
Following Romo's lead, the rest of the Cowboys did, too.
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