MINNEAPOLIS - All those big-game demons that Tony Romo supposedly vanquished last week returned to haunt the Dallas Cowboys yet again.
Romo lost two of his three fumbles and threw an interception to seal the Cowboys’ fate in a 34-3 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC divisional playoffs Sunday.
Romo completed 22 of 35 passes for 198 yards, but the best individual season of his career was brought to a crashing halt. The Vikings had six sacks and 10 hurries in what coach Wade Phillips called the most relentless pass rush his team has seen all season.
“Anytime you come in with the expectations and goals we set and don’t accomplish them, number one, it’s frustrating,” Romo said before a long pause as he searched for the right words. “Right now it’s just hard to think the season is over.”
And he faces another offseason with another big-game failure added to his résumé.
It was such a stark contrast to a week ago, when Romo was the toast of NFL analysts for leading the team’s December charge to the NFC East title. He threw for 311 yards and two scores against Philadelphia in the final week of the regular season to give the Cowboys the NFC East title, then followed that up with 244 yards and two TDs in a 34-14 win over the Eagles for his first career playoff win.
The performances – and a full regular season in which he set career bests for yards (4,483), rating (97.6) and fewest interceptions (9) – led many to believe that Romo had finally put all those struggles behind him.
Then the Vikings made him look like the kid whose fumbled hold of a field goal try cost the Cowboys against the Seattle Seahawks in the 2007 playoffs.
“It looked like Tony was running for his life a lot,” Phillips said.
The Cowboys took the opening kickoff and marched right down the field with ease, until Ray Edwards sacked Romo and forced a fumble that Kevin Williams recovered to stop the drive in Vikings territory.
On their second possession, Romo’s fumbled snap cost the Cowboys valuable yardage and ultimately forced them to settle for a 48-yard field goal try by Shaun Suisham. The kick was wide left, shifting the momentum to the Vikings.
It only got worse from there. The Cowboys managed just 130 yards of offense in the final three quarters and went 3 for 13 on third downs.