An emotional Cowboys fan might view this as one of those"Bench Romo,” "Fire Garrett,” "Trade For Manziel,” "Activate Michael Sam,” "Drown Jerry In A Vat Of Johnny Walker Blue” kind of games.
And then, an emotional Dallas Cowboys fan, once he calms his nerves and regains his senses, might realize that he’s about to endure a 2014 season overflowing with "Bench Romo,” "Fire Garrett,” "Trade For Manziel,” "Activate Michael Sam,” "Drown Jerry In A Vat Of Johnny Walker Blue” kind of games.
"I was disappointed in the way I performed in the first half," said Tony Romo, who threw three interceptions in the first two quarters, fueling Dallas’ 28-17 season-opening loss to the visiting San Francisco 49ers. "I thought our team played well enough to have a chance. Three plays can change an entire game and that’s what happened.”
Romo may have experienced some physical problems playing in his first real game since season-ending back surgery last December. But there was intellectual rust, as well, his three giveaways along with DeMarco Murray’s fumble returned for a San Francisco TD on the third play of the game leading to a 25-point halftime deficit — the worst in a season opener in franchise history.
"It’s a simple game,” said coach Jason Garrett. "Those (turnovers) were the difference-making plays. You can’t do that against anybody in the NFL.”
That calm approach has value inside the walls of Valley Ranch, where the Cowboys will regroup by telling themselves that the 49ers have played in three straight NFC title games, that last year’s league-worst Cowboys defense was something short of an embarrassment this time around, and that a running game keyed by Murray (118 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries) can be a foundation of better days ahead.
But Romo, 34, must be a foundation piece, too. Often he is caught in the wide net of blame for a franchise that seems predisposed to dramatically disappointing 8-8 finishes. But this time around, the fan-base finger-pointing would be directed accurately at the high-profile signal-caller who finished 23 of 37 for 281 yards but a putrid passer rating of 56.3.
"There are a lot of plays in the game,” Romo said, "that you want to have back."
• Dallas was poised to overcome the Murray fumble return with a second-and-1 at the San Francisco 2. But Romo checked out of a handoff to Murray, believing he saw a defense stacked against the play, and dropped to pass. He was sacked, forcing Dallas to eventually settle for a field goal.
"I bet,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones correctly theorized, "(49ers defenders) were in the gaps and they got it loaded up, so he obviously thought he had a better chance to get it in there by throwing it.”
• The Cowboys were down 14-3 when Romo locked onto Dez Bryant while the receiver was enveloped by a trio of defenders. Safety Eric Reid recorded the easy pick and returned it 48 yards, setting up a 2-yard Niners’ score.
"That was a bad decision to Dez," Romo said, who wasn’t done making them.
• Romo’s second interception came with Dallas again in the red zone, a favorable situation with a first-and-goal at the 5. Dallas could’ve fed Murray here, as he was gashing the 49ers. Or receiver Dwayne Harris could’ve scored easily on a slant, but Romo never saw him. Instead, another case of "intellectual rust,” as forced a pass into double-coverage.Jason Witten never had a chance to catch it. San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis did.
"I was peeking at Witten in the corner of my eye and I missed Dwayne," Romo said. "You have to make a better decision. I missed that one."
• The third pick — with with 3:50 left in the first half and Dallas desperation starting to settle in — saw Romo once again force a throw into coverage. But this was more than mental rust; this was one of the QB’s flutter balls and Perrish Cox intercepted the pass targeted for Bryant.
So what is the first thing you do as an emotional Cowboys fan watching a loss like this? Maybe you call for the benching of Romo, the firing of Garrett, the acquisition of Johnny Manziel, the activation of Michael Sam or the blaming of Jerry, who has you feeling blue but not in a Johnny Walker sort of way.
And what is the first thing Tony Romo and the Cowboys do?
"Obviously, the first thing we have to do is take care of the football,” Garrett said. "(Romo) didn’t do a good job of that. We didn’t do a good job of that.”