Next up: Romo's blunders bury Cowboys again

This was already shaping up to be a huge season for Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. He missed the last 10 games of 2010 with a fractured clavicle and faced leadership issues as the team seemed to bond under backup quarterback Jon Kitna. And then came Sunday night's meltdown against the New York Jets.

Romo worked in the offseason to improve his leadership, organizing the player-run workouts during the lockout. And Romo seemingly was on his way to repairing his mistake-prone and leadership issues with a strong performance through three quarters in the season opener against the Jets.

Romo has always put up stats, but it's his performance when the game matters most that has been a source of contention with his critics.

And it was the same old turnover-prone Romo that did in the Cowboys in the season-opening 27-24 loss against the Jets.

He had a fumble that cost the Cowboys points and an interception that led to the game-winning field goal. His turnovers proved to be the difference in the game.

"This game came down to one or two plays, the plays that I gave them the ball," Romo said.

The fumble came at the 3-yard line with the Cowboys up 24-17. Instead of taking a 27-17 or 31-17 lead with a touchdown or field goal, the Cowboys were stopped cold.

Romo was seemingly given a reprieve by the Cowboys' defense. Blitzing safety Danny McCray sacked Mark Sanchez, forcing a fumble that was recovered by linebacker Sean Lee.

But more Cowboys mistakes turned the tide again as the ensuing drive was bogged down by back-to-back delay of game and false-start penalties.

Then disaster struck when running back Joe McKnight broke through to block a punt by Mat McBriar. It was returned 18 yards to the end zone by Isaiah Trufant, tying the game 24-24.

The biggest disaster came with 49 seconds left in the game with the Cowboys at their own 34-yard line.

Romo forced the ball to receiver Dez Bryant. Pro-Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis jumped the route and made the interception, returning it 20 yards to set up the game-winning field goal.

"He did a good job of staying underneath the route," Romo said. "I haven't looked at the tape, but I'm pretty sure Dez did a good job adjusting to it. I've got to do a good job adjusting to him. I cost us the game. I've got to do a better job right now."

Romo still put up numbers, completing 26 of 36 passes for 342 yards with two touchdowns. But it's the two turnovers in crunch time that people will talk about.

That's what is keeping him from being an elite quarterback and the Cowboys from taking the step from pretenders to contenders.

LINEUP WATCH: There is a changing of the guard at linebacker as Sean Lee got the start in front of Keith Brooking. Lee was a constant on the field with Brooking alternating with Bradie James.

BY THE NUMBERS: The Jets 2.6 rushing average per play is a huge improvement for a team that couldn't stop the run last season. It's good news going ahead as the Cowboys face the 49ers and Frank Gore on Sunday at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.


--- CB Orlando Scandrick suffered a sprained ankle and left the game in a walking boot. He will be reevaluated on Monday but it doesn't look good for a Cowboys team already hurting at cornerback.

--- WR Dez Bryant started the game strong with three catches for 71 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter. He was held catchless the rest of the way as he was covered man to man by Darrelle Revis, who started out on Miles Austin.

--- LB Sean Lee had a coming out party with a strong game on defense leading the Cowboys with 11 tackles and an interception. The next Cowboys defender had four tackles.

--- TE Jason Witten appears on his way to leading the Cowboys in receiving again with six catches for 110 yards in the season opener. It was a great way to celebrate a new five-year, $37 million contract extension he signed on Sunday.

--- LB Bradie James had led the Cowboys in tackles the last six years, a team record. He didn't record a tackle against the Jets.

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