Peyton-type time or not, Romo in Manning shadow

Tony Romo had a Peyton Manning comparison dropped on him by his
owner in the offseason.

Jerry Jones was talking about meeting rooms and film rooms when
he said the Dallas quarterback would be putting in ”Peyton
Manning-type time” after he signed the richest contract in
franchise history.

It’s a good thing Jones didn’t say anything about Peyton
Manning-type statistics. So far this year, nobody compares.

Manning has the Denver Broncos at 4-0 with 16 touchdown passes
and no interceptions heading into his first game at the Cowboys’
$1.2 billion stadium Sunday.

Romo has just one interception, but his offense has been
hit-or-miss in a 2-2 start.

”I think you’ve got to just play each play out, regardless of
circumstance, what gives your team the best chance to score and to
win the game,” said Romo, who has eight touchdown passes and is
fourth in the league in quarterback rating. ”And then obviously,
when it gets to a certain point in the game, you’re going to have
to do things to give your team a chance.”

The best chance for the Cowboys is to keep scoring, which they
didn’t do in a loss at San Diego last weekend. Romo threw a pair of
second-quarter touchdowns to Dez Bryant, but those were the only
points for the offense. The Chargers scored the last 20 points in a
30-21 win.

Part of the problem was Dallas didn’t have the ball much after
halftime. But the other part of the problem was stalling twice
around midfield in the second half. The Cowboys probably can’t
afford to do that with Manning’s Broncos averaging nearly 45
points.

”You’ve got to do things to keep drives alive and take
advantage of your opportunities,” Dallas tight end Jason Witten
said. ”I don’t think you can get outside your system, the way you
play, and play into their hands. You have to trust that and
obviously you have a lot of respect in what they’re doing as a
football team.”

Jones tied his quarterback to Manning with the offseason mantra
that Romo would be more involved in everything about the
Cowboys.

It started with a statement from Jones the day Romo signed a
six-year, $108 million extension in March and the owner said his
quarterback would have a lot more involvement in the offense. A few
later, he offered the ”Peyton Manning-type time” sound bite.

Critics took it to mean Romo wasn’t invested enough in the first
place, and the Cowboys have been trying to shoot that down ever
since.

They didn’t have to make their pitch to Manning.

”Look, every quarterback that is starting in this league
multiple years puts in time,” Manning said. ”I feel like I do
what I need to do to get ready to play. But any quarterback who is
a starter year after year, I promise you they’re putting the work
in in the facility on their own. Otherwise, it shows up and you
lose your job.”

Dallas coach Jason Garrett has been deflecting the criticism for
months, but always stopping short of offering many details on how
much Romo’s involvement has changed. Garrett, once the backup to
Troy Aikman in Dallas, was the offensive coordinator for Romo’s
first full season as a starter in 2007, and they’ve been together
ever since.

”I don’t know that it’s appreciably different, but the idea is
that we are really as a team trying to emphasize that and …
empower him to do that more and more,” Garrett said. ”You want
him to like the plays you are calling into his helmet so he can go
play his best football.”

With Romo more involved and Bill Callahan replacing Garrett as
the play-caller, the offense is heavily dissected every week. When
the running game sputtered in a loss at Kansas City, Dallas
answered with 175 yards rushing from DeMarco Murray.

This week, the questions revolve around whether Dallas can
sustain anything – and whether they can exploit the only weakness
in Denver’s stats so far. The Broncos are close to the bottom of
the league in pass defense.

”I think probably the reason that the pass numbers aren’t quite
as good as they’d want them to be is because they’ve been way ahead
in ballgames and teams have to throw the ball over and over and
over again,” Garrett said. ”They’re willing to give up those
yards to win the ballgame.”

Opponents just have a hard time keeping up with – and comparing
to – Manning.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org