Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is as useful as any calendar.
He makes it obvious when it’s November.
“It started for us two weeks back,” Romo told reporters at Redskins Park on a conference call Tuesday. “We’ve been putting our head down and grinding, going forward and trying put together win after win.”
Romo enters the Thanksgiving Day matchup against the Washington Redskins (FOX, 4:15 p.m. ET) with a 21-3 career mark in November, the best of any quarterback in the Super Bowl era.
Not all have been pretty, like Sunday’s effort against the two-win Cleveland Browns that took overtime to settle.
“I think you’re going to play in games like that,” said Romo, who was sacked a career-high seven times, gave up crucial fumble late in regulation and needed 50 pass attempts in the 23-20 win.
“You want to go out and win by 30 points every week, but in the National Football League, that’s not the case. We’re going to be in a battle every week that we play.”
Dallas (5-5) enters with consecutive wins for the first time since last November. Coupled with back-to-back losses by NFC East-leading New York Giants, the Cowboys would be a half game out of first with a victory over Redskins at Cowboys Stadium.
For as much as has been made (and rightly so) about the impact of Robert Griffin III’s arrival in Washington, make no mistake: Romo is just as integral to the Cowboys’ fortunes.
Sure, he has as many touchdown passes (13) as interceptions this season, and his play in the clutch has been criticized. But he has his backers where it counts: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett.
“Tony’s been an outstanding player for us,” Garrett said. “You know, we have turned the ball over more than we want to early on in the year. He had a couple games where he had multiple interceptions, but I think he’s battled well. We’ve had a lot of different combinations of guys playing up front and around him. I think he’s handled those situations well. Obviously he can play better and better and better.”
Those different combos Garrett mentioned have been necessitated by a rash of injuries to the offensive line and in the backfield. The Cowboys are expected to be without running back DeMarco Murray for a sixth consecutive game with a sprained foot, and running back Felix Jones (knee) did not participate in practice on Tuesday.
The Cowboys had 63 yards rushing against Cleveland, which despite that effort is ranked only 24th in the league in run defense.
More passing — even behind a depleted line that likely will be without tackle Tyron Smith (ankle) — should again be on tap for Romo on Thursday. That should put even more of a spotlight on the Romo vs. Griffin matchup.
Griffin already has the fifth-best quarterback rating (Romo is ranked 16th), and the rookie has gotten more the edge publicity-wise as well.
“I’m never going to have to throw the ball against him and he’s not going to be throwing the ball against me at all,” Romo said. “It’s about their defense. I have to trust my defense, our special teams, to go out and play well. If they do that, then we have a great chance of winning.”
While the Cowboys could pull above .500 and inch closer to the top of the NFC East, the Redskins (4-6) look to remain viable.
Sunday’s 31-6 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles certainly will give the Redskins some swagger, even if Washington coach Mike Shanahan seemed to talk more about evaluating talent than contending for a playoff berth a couple of weeks back.
“It is not building (for next year), it is (about) this year,” Shanahan said after practice on Tuesday. “That is what our goals are. We control our own destiny, except for the Giants. If we win out, the Giants have to lose one game. We understand that.”
The odds favor Romo, not only since it’s still November. He’s also won five Thanksgiving Day games in a row.
The next trick for Romo — who is 8-13 in December and 2-4 in January as a starter — is to ensure his game doesn’t turn when the calendar does.