SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Tony Romo rallied America’s Team while playing with a fractured rib.
In a week when Romo vowed to play his best game, he delivered a gutsy comeback that looked unlikely when he briefly came out from halftime and then returned to the locker room.
Just when the Cowboys (1-1) announced the quarterback was done for the day, there came No. 9 ready to take charge of the huddle once again.
Romo hit Jesse Holley on a 77-yard completion on the Cowboys’ first play of overtime that set up Dan Bailey’s winning 19-yard field goal, and Dallas pulled off an improbable 27-24 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
In one frantic span, Romo emphatically left his mark on the storied Cowboys-49ers rivalry that dates back decades to all those epic matchups in the NFC title game that regularly set up Super Bowl victories by the winner.
It was an exact reverse of what happened a week earlier: a 27-24 road loss to the Jets after Dallas blew a late 14-point lead. Romo’s late interception contributed to that Week 1 collapse.
Bailey kicked a tying 48-yard field goal Sunday as time expired in regulation after missing an early 21-yard attempt.
Romo completed five of six passes on the tying drive, connecting on consecutive throws to Holley before finding him again in OT.
Miles Austin made three touchdown receptions among his nine catches for 143 yards, leaping over a defender and diving into the end zone to pull Dallas within 24-21 with 6:55 to play. Austin later hurt his hamstring.
Owner Jerry Jones won’t need to defend Romo after this one. He grimaced and limped. He needed help from a lineman to stand up as the vicious hits kept coming.
Romo completed 20 of 33 passes for 345 yards and backup Jon Kitna found Austin for a 5-yard TD, but also threw two interceptions during his brief appearance. As Romo’s teammates celebrated, cheered and hugged, he slowly made his way to midfield for postgame handshakes.
The 49ers (1-1) were trying to move to 2-0 under new coach Jim Harbaugh after a 33-17 victory over defending NFC West champion Seattle last week.
Alex Smith threw for 179 yards and two touchdowns, including a 29-yard strike to Delanie Walker in the third quarter. Smith found himself in the familiar predicament of getting hit. He was sacked six times as San Francisco’s offensive line often failed to protect him or give him ample time in the pocket to be effective.
Frank Gore ran for a 1-yard score and Kyle Williams had a 12-yard touchdown catch as San Francisco went ahead 14-0.
Romo returned for the last series of the third quarter, the final 15 minutes and OT.
Dallas had a final chance in regulation, getting the ball back with 4:03 to play starting from its own 26.
Romo, in the shotgun as he’d been most of the day, delivered on third-and-6 from the 43 with a 7-yard completion to Austin. They connected on another 7-yard gain the next play.
After Jones this week called Romo’s performance against the Jets “outstanding,” Romo made all the right calls in crunch time.
“He’s a winner,” Jones told the team’s flagship radio station. “We are going to rise and fall based on what Tony Romo’s about over the next several years, and I’m excited about that.”
Romo played through multiple hits in the first half, when he threw a late 53-yard touchdown pass to Austin to bring Dallas within 14-7. The QB came up slowly after being clobbered on a blindside cornerback blitz by Carlos Rogers as he was throwing in the second quarter.
Romo looked to be headed for another tough day.
The Cowboys came up short on a 76-yard drive over the opening 7 1/2 minutes after Bailey missed wide right on his 21-yard field goal attempt. Then, it was three straight three-and-outs by Romo and Co.
For the 49ers, watching this one get away will be tough.
They now go on the road for games at Cincinnati and Philadelphia.
Both teams went without a top receiver: no Dez Bryant for the Cowboys because of a thigh injury or Michael Crabtree for the Niners as he nurses his troublesome left foot.
San Francisco’s Braylon Edwards limped off with a right knee injury after making a 21-yard catch in the first quarter.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)