A stat line of 18-of-28 for 227, two touchdowns, two picks, and an 83.5 passer rating looks like the best backup quarterback Matt Cassel could muster in Tony Romo's absence, but that was the 35-year-old franchise field general shaking off the rust as he helped Dallas to a 24-14 win at Miami -- and helped the Cowboys improve to 3-7 on their way to trying to win the whole bleeping thing.
Mixed in was a TD pass to Dez Bryant (more on that in a sec) that puts Romo/Dez at 50 TDs together, one more than Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin teamed for.
“I think anytime you’re mentioned with Aikman and Irvin, it’s a special deal,” Romo said. “We’re lucky just to be in that breath than anything."
The Cowboys are lucky to be in the mix in the NFC East, too ... And it all started with a zany play. To either showcase his left collarbone was fully healed, or to get out of a safety in the middle of his own end zone, Romo tossed a left-handed pass to running back Darren McFadden for nine yards that almost moved the sticks on third-and-10. Instead, Dallas had to punt.
Romo had his "bad Romo" moments as he tried to do it all, something the Dallas coaches advised against all week. Dallas looked like they were going to drive to strike first blood near the end of the first quarter, but Romo, who coaches told didn't have to do it all, tossed a fade to receiver Dez Bryant while backpedaling to avoid a sack on third-and-6 from the Miami 12-yard line. Cornerback Brent Grimes earned his third pick of the year as he snagged the errant throw and returned it to the Dolphins 9-yard line. Thankfully, Cowboys middle linebacker Rolando McClain picked off Dolphins signal caller Ryan Tannehill for a 12-yard touchdown to give the Cowboys a 7-0 and save Romo's skin from Coach Twitter.
Another poor decision on Romo's part was on the team's first drive of the second half. Again, the Cowboys were in Miami territory, though barely five yards in. Romo, as he was trying to avoid a sack, threw a checkdown over new Cowboys running back Robert Turbin's head and into the awaiting arms of linebacker Neville Hewitt.
The Romo that Dallas was missing for seven games did show up in big ways. Naturally, the 31-yard touchdown to receiver Terrance Williams comes to mind, as does the 16-yard touchdown to Dez Bryant. But Romo's mere presence of getting players into position and setting up the right formations is what helped the offense convert 7/14 first downs or build a 10-point fourth quarter lead and allow the rushmen to fianlly tee off on an opposing passer.
New Cowboys runner Turbin, who arrived Wednesday and began practicing, carried the ball seven times for 35 yards, including a 17-yard rush that was the longest of the day until McFadden eclipsed it with his own 35-yard run.
Along with is lone touchdown, Williams caught four passes for 79 yards. Bryant caught four balls as well for 45 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Cole Beasley was not a beneficiary of Romo's return, at least for today, as he only caught one ball for 14 yards to convert a first down.
The Dallas defense limited Lamar Miller to seven carries for 44 yards, and rookie Jay Ajayi only had four carries for 13 yards. Tannehill rushed three times for 13 yards on read-option plays, and also went 13/24 passing for 188 yards, two touchdowns, an interception, and a 90.2 passer rating.
On the first play of the second quarter, Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain picked off Tannehill for a 12-yard touchdown on third-and-11 from Miami's 8-yard line to give Dallas a 7-0 lead.
With 1:23 to go in the second quarter, Romo hit receiver Terrance Williams for a 31-yard touchdown on third-and-10 from the Dolphins 31-yard line to extend their lead to 14-0. And then came the over-celebration penalty that helped the Dolphins trim the Dallas lead to 14-7 before halftime as Tannehill found tight end Jordan Cameron for a 12-yard touchdown on second-and-10 from the Cowboys 12-yard line with 23 seconds to go.
Tannehill hit receiver Kenny Still for a 29-yard touchdown on third-and-6 from the Dallas 29-yard line to tie up the game at 14-14 with 5:26 to go in the third quarter.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Romo hit Bryant for a 16-yard touchdown to give Dallas a 21-14 lead.
Dallas added three more points on a 30-yard Dan Bailey field goal with 9:23 in the game to build a 24-14 final score.
* Greg Hardy leads the team with 4.5 sacks. Nipping at his heels is the defensive lineman Jack Crawford with 4.0. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence and defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford are tied for third place with three apiece.
* Darren McFadden had 29 carries for 129 yards, making it the first time since 2012 that he has had three century-mark games in the same season.
*To repeat: With Romo hitting Bryant for a 16-yard touchdown, it made it the 50th hookup between the quarterback and receiver, untying themselves from Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin to take undisputed first place in Cowboys history. It looked like this:
* Dallas now has 19 false starts this season, good for the most in the NFL. Last year, they had 17 all season.
* Romo is now 12-5 in the "cursed" blue jerseys.
* Rolando McClain's 12-yard interception return for a touchdown was the first of his career.
* Jason Witten had two catches for 27 yards. He is six catches away from the 1,000 mark.
*Said coach Jason Garrett of Romo, who issued a speech to his team at their Fort Lauderdale hotel on Saturday night: "Poise. Leadership. Execution. ... I think the guys feed off that."