EAST RUTHERORD, N.J.—For much of Sunday night’s game at MetLife Stadium, Tony Romo’s return from last season’s broken collarbone was going smoothly. The quarterback was on his way to a 342-yard passing performance and he had the Dallas Cowboys two touchdowns in front of the New York Jets in the fourth quarter.
Then it all unraveled for Romo and the Cowboys. Romo lost a fourth-quarter fumble at the New York 3-yard line. He threw a late interception to Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis. And the Jets scored the game’s final 17 points to win, 27-24.
Romo took the blame for the first defeat in franchise history in which the Cowboys led by at least 14 points in the fourth quarter.
“It was a dumb decision, too reactionary,” Romo said of the Revis interception, which set up the game-winning field goal for the Jets. “. . . It’s just disappointing and frustrating right now because we win that football game if I don’t do what I did. It’s hard to swallow just knowing that we lost this game because of me.”
Romo’s fumble came on a scramble toward the goal line with the Cowboys leading by seven points with about nine minutes to play.
“It would have been a risky throw at that time,” Romo said. “I tried to get to the end zone. Like I said, I cost us the football game…. I have to do better. That’s the bottom line.”
The Jets won on an emotional night that included ceremonies commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Their coach, Rex Ryan, had spoken during the week of wanting badly to win the game for New York fans.
“I think we all felt it,” Ryan said after the game. “It affected everybody in that locker room. You can see where the [Twin] Towers were from our stadium. There was a lot of pressure, but also a lot of excitement. We wanted to show our fans and everybody else, ‘Hey, look, we’re your team,’ and all that. It didn’t go the way we wanted early, but with the way we fought… very few teams will fight like that, very few.”
Ryan also won while coaching against his brother, Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, with their father Buddy on hand to watch the game.
“As much as I love him,” Rex Ryan said of Rob, “I always want to beat him.”
Teams with new head coaches went 1-5 Sunday. The lone victory came for San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh.
Jason Garrett of Dallas, Leslie Frazier of Minnesota, Ron Rivera of Carolina, Mike Munchak of Tennessee and Pat Shurmur of Cleveland lost their first season openers as NFL head coaches. Garrett and Frazier were interim head coaches last season, but that didn’t help them Sunday.
There had been plenty of talk before the season that teams with new coaches might struggle mightily in the early stages of the season after an offseason in which they had no practices, thanks to the lockout, to put their new ideas in place. That talk apparently will be justified. But one team with a new coach will get a triumph Monday night, barring a tie between Oakland’s Hue Jackson and Denver’s John Fox.
Rookie quarterbacks, also thought to be at a huge disadvantage because of the circumstances surrounding the lockout, fared better Sunday. The Panthers’ Cam Newton lost his debut but was dazzling, throwing for 422 yards. Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton left the Bengals’ victory over the Browns with a wrist injury but played fairly well before exiting, completing 10 of 15 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown.
Maybe the kickoff return hasn’t been taken out of the game, after all.
There have been three kickoff returns for touchdowns in the opening weekend of games entering the two Monday night contests. Minnesota’s Percy Harvin and San Francisco’s Ted Ginn Jr. had touchdowns Sunday on kickoff returns after Green Bay’s Randall Cobb got things going Thursday night with a touchdown on a kickoff return that matched the longest in league history at 108 yards.
There was plenty of criticism during the preseason that the sport’s new kickoff rules, designed to make the play safer, would eliminate the kickoff return as a significant part of the game. There were plenty of touchbacks on kickoffs in the opening games. But the touchdowns seem to indicate that the play hasn’t disappeared yet as a way of generating points. Returners simply have a bit farther to go.
All three touchdowns were longer than 100 yards, with Harvin going 103 yards and Ginn covering 102 yards.