IRVING, Texas – Tony Romo just had to get out of the way for the Dallas Cowboys to win for the first time this season.
His three interceptions played a big role in a season-opening loss to San Francisco, and the difference a week later at Tennessee was the rushing attack led by DeMarco Murray.
Romo has been called a lot of things in eight years as the starting quarterback in Dallas. Game manager isn't one of them.
Now that he's coming off back surgery and has the league's leading rusher through two weeks behind him, a "complementary" role — coach Jason Garrett's word after beating the Titans — seems more realistic than ever heading into Sunday's game at St. Louis.
"I'm all for going out and having games like we just had and playing the way Seattle has the last few years and just having those style of games," said Romo, who threw for 176 yards and a touchdown without an interception in the 26-10 win over the Titans last weekend. "It makes everyone's job easier."
Owner Jerry Jones, who gave Romo the franchise's first $100 million contract last year, is fine with it, too.
"I'm probably the one that's standing right behind Tony and saying, 'Yes, we like seeing that,'" Jones said on his radio show. "All of it works together. So the way we played Romo the other day fits me just fine and fits him just fine. It's called winning, and that's what we're here for."
There is one potentially unsettling question for Jones, though — whether a reduced role will be required to help Romo deal with a back that needed surgery to repair a herniated disk. Eight months earlier, he had a cyst removed from his back.
The 34-year-old Romo has said that he's 100 percent, that he's throwing the ball better than ever, that he feels his best years are ahead of him.
Really, he says just about anything he can think of to reassure the masses that he's the same quarterback who already has the franchise record for touchdown passes and should pass Troy Aikman in career yards this year.
His teammates do the same thing. Safety Barry Church said on a radio show this week that Romo's back was so good that he could "hit him with a chair and he'd be fine."
But here's the reality. He took frequent days off during training camp, and finally sat out a regular-season practice for the first time Wednesday with what Garrett said was stiffness. Romo just called it a routine day off, like the ones in California.
"I'm sure it'll happen throughout the rest of the season," Romo said. "It's just obviously more talked about because of having surgery on the back. It's a very violent, physical game, and you throw the ball a lot and you do all these things. Sometimes it's just that tightness stuff comes up. I'll be fine."
Romo stumbled out of the pocket on one play early against the Titans, and threw a wobbly pass into the ground. But he also had a strong throw on the run to Dez Bryant to convert a third-and-15 on a third-quarter touchdown drive that answered Tennessee's best challenge.
"The more he plays coming back off this injury, I anticipate that continuing to get better and better," Garrett said. "We saw some good examples of that and maybe some examples where he wasn't quite himself."
But Garrett isn't ready to relegate Romo to the front of the bus — as in the bus driver.
"He understands what the point of emphasis has been for our team," said Garrett, who was Romo's offensive coordinator for six seasons before giving up the role last season. "We want to be a balanced offense. Use a lot of different people to attack a lot of different ways. Tony has been a part of that. And he's been part of games where we have run the ball really successfully."
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