IRVING (AP) – So much for Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys getting extra time to savor something good.
Instead of a three-game winning streak, Dallas (2-2) began its bye week — and now excruciating extra time before playing again — after the biggest collapse in the team’s 52-season history with coach Jason Garrett again having to defend his quarterback after another turnover-plagued finish.
“Certainly, Tony has had a lot of really good games for us. He’s had some games where things haven’t gone well also. In recent weeks, I think we’ve seen each of those kinds of games,” Garrett said Monday.
“Even the best ones have games that end like this. Tony will learn from this. He goes about it the right way, and we will be better as a football team because of this.”
The worrisome part for the Cowboys (2-2) has to be how the latest meltdown, blowing a 24-point lead over the last 25 minutes in a 34-30 loss to Detroit, is eerily similar to how the season began.
In the season-opening loss at the New York Jets, Romo had an interception and lost a fumble at the 3 as Dallas blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead to lose for the first time in franchise history.
Against Detroit on Sunday, the Cowboys led 27-3 after Romo threw his third touchdown early in the third quarter. He followed with three interceptions, the first two returned for touchdowns and the third setting up the Lions’ game-winning score with 1:39 left.
“Certainly the thing that we’ll continue to emphasize to our football team, and he’s a big part of that, is playing winning football and doing the things that help you win games, and the last couple of weeks he’s done those things,” Garrett said.
“In this game against Detroit and the earlier game against the Jets he didn’t do those things. Hopefully, he’ll learn from those experiences.”
A week after the loss to the Jets, Romo threw for 201 yards in the fourth quarter and overtime of a win at San Francisco despite suffering a fractured rib and punctured lung early in the game
The Cowboys then had an 18-16 win over NFC East rival Washington, the first time in 10 years they won without scoring a touchdown.
Before losing to the undefeated Lions (4-0), the biggest lead blown by the Cowboys in a loss was against Washington on Nov. 28, 1965, when they had a 21-0 lead in the second quarter and lost 34-31. That was exactly four months before Garrett was born, and during the franchise’s sixth season before Dallas had ever been in a playoff game.
Players had their scheduled day off Monday, then will practice Tuesday and Wednesday before getting a four-day weekend. Their next game is Oct. 16 at New England.
“You can’t forget about this. You want to remember these types of losses. This is something you definitely want to learn from,” linebacker Anthony Spencer said after the game.
“We have to realize we were up and we didn’t finish the game. We know that this can’t keep happening throughout the season and if it does we’re going to be the mediocre team that we don’t want to be.”
Tight end Jason Witten described the loss as “frustrating” and “disappointing.” He said the team will stay together and believe in each other with three-fourths of the regular season still left to play.
Even after missing a chance to be 3-1, the Cowboys have one more win than at this point last season. They were 1-7 and lost Romo to a broken collarbone before Wade Phillips was fired and Garrett promoted.
“We must and we will look ahead,” owner Jerry Jones said after the game.
“We know how for it to be worse than this. We’ve experienced it, a lot of this same group has experienced it. So we’ll get in here, take our bye, get well and come back and try to do something very special.”
There was an awkward moment on the sideline Sunday between Jones and Romo after Detroit scored its go-ahead touchdown.
A short video clip shows Jones patting Romo on the shoulder pads and then reaching for the quarterback’s jersey while apparently offering encouragement. Romo pulled away and kept walking.
Jones never addressed that brushoff after the game, when he quickly defended the quarterback. The owner said he had “a lot of faith in Romo” and nothing had changed that.
Since leading the Cowboys to their first playoff victory in 13 seasons at the end of the 2009 season, Romo is 3-8 in his past 11 starts, including his abbreviated 2010 season.
“I think he’s a very good starting quarterback,” Garrett said. “I played next to a Hall of Fame quarterback in this organization (Troy Aikman) for a long time and each and every day he came in to learn and get better. That’s what the best ones do in football and do in life. I’d expect Tony to continue to do that.”
Romo also got a show of support Monday from Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki, who tweeted “Dear tony romo. Don’t worry abt all the critics. I heard that same garbage for a long time. Keep working hard and keep improving.”
Nowitzki and the Mavericks won their first NBA championship in June after many seasons of playoff struggles.
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