By Sean Hartnett
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After the New York Giants eliminated the Dallas Cowboys from playoff contention on the final week of the 2011 season, Tony Romo was branded as a quarterback who fades when the going gets tough.
Being quarterback of the Cowboys ranks highly among glamour positions in all of sports, but it’s also one of the most critiqued. It’s never easy being the man behind center in “Big D.”
Everything is bigger in Texas — especially the pressure of living up to the standard of past Cowboys’ glories.
Romo finally shook the label that dogged him in front of a national audience on Wednesday night. He entered the lion’s den of MetLife Stadium, the very same venue where the Cowboys’ playoff dream collapsed on New Year’s Day.
His stellar 22-for-29, three-touchdown performance was an all-out aerial assault on an injury-ravaged Giants secondary. Romo coolly handled the Giants’ pass rush and picked apart the G-Men for 307 passing yards, completing a remarkable 75.8 percent of passes.
“We’re judged by winning and losing, so the best thing is going on the road and getting a win,” Romo said in the postgame press conference.
“(It’s) not only a win, but it’s against a division rival and obviously, against the world champs. It’s a tough atmosphere, a tough game. Our team grinded it out.”
It was a defining moment for Romo, but also a harsh examination of the Giants’ passive secondary.
Romo connected with unheralded receiver Kevin Ogletree for 114 yards and two touchdowns. Ogletree found acres of space in the Giants’ secondary. The Queens native and former undrafted free agent torched Corey Webster on multiple routes.
Ogletree, Dez Bryant and Miles Austin toyed with the Giants’ weakened secondary. The Giants were without the injured Prince Amukamara and his replacement, Michael Coe, left Wednesday’s opener with an apparent hamstring injury. He did not return for the fourth quarter.
The Giants’ secondary must heal up and shape up quickly, otherwise it will be the same story against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 2.
Many NFL analysts, such as Troy Aikman, believe Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman is primed for a bounce-back year. Freeman struggled in 2011, but is looking to replicate the success of a sensational sophomore season that produced 25 touchdowns and just six interceptions.
The addition of Vincent Jackson earned high praise not only from Tampa papers, but also national media outlets. His presence is exactly what Freeman needs to make good on his career’s early promise.
Romo exposed the Giants’ weak underbelly. Now, it’s up to the Giants’ secondary to prove that they’re better than the inadequate group that Romo sliced apart on Wednesday.
How concerned are you about the Giants’ secondary after last night’s performance? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.