ASHBURN — As the Washington Redskins prepared to face the New York Giants last week, it was hard to ignore the implications of the matchup looming on the schedule.
A win against the Giants meant the Redskins moved into first place in the NFC East, followed by a “Monday Night Football” game against the Dallas Cowboys and Tony Romo.
However, before the Redskins beat the Giants, 20-14, it was clear one of those scenarios would not play out. Romo’s season ended when he broke his left collarbone in a 33-14 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Thanksgiving.
It’s been a trying season for the Cowboys (3-8) and Romo, who had returned to the team just five days earlier in a 24-14 win against the Miami Dolphins. The Cowboys’ quarterback was on injured reserve with a designation to return for eight weeks after fracturing the same collarbone in Week 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles. After Romo’s initial injury, Dallas lost all seven games until he returned against Miami.
Redskins (5-6) defensive end Jason Hatcher, who played eight seasons in Dallas, felt sorry for his former teammate, but was relishing the fact that Washington didn’t have to face a quarterback Hatcher considers one of the best.
“Romo, you know, he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the league when healthy, and it helps out a lot not having him back there,” Hatcher said. “He’s a gentleman, man. He understands the game and he understands the system, and he ran it well when he was healthy. I hope the guy gets healthy fast. I’m not happy he’s hurt, but I’m happy he’s not playing.”
After Romo was injured, the Cowboys turned to Brandon Weeden, who had an 85.7 passer rating in three starts. Weeden was cut on Nov. 17 and was picked up by the Houston Texans. Coach Jason Garrett then turned to Matt Cassel, who was acquired via trade with the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 22 and posted a 75.3 passer rating in the next four starts.
In the game against Carolina, Cassel completed 13 of 19 passes for 93 yards and a touchdown after Romo exited.
“The stars are kind of aligning for us, because you kind of look at the schedule, and, ‘Gosh, Tony will be back in time to play us, and everybody else has kind of got a crack at them when they weren’t full strength,’” defensive back DeAngelo Hall said. “To see him go down, you’re kind of licking your chops a little bit, like, ‘Well, you know, don’t have to go against him.’
“Obviously, he’s one of the best ones out there, but at the same time, this team is still dangerous. They’ve got probably one of the best offensive lines in the game, a very capable running game, a passing attack with Dez [Bryant] coming back. He’s getting stronger every week. Matt Cassel is not Tony, but he’s a quarterback who has played a lot in this league and he’s made a lot of plays, so you know, I don’t think anybody will be overlooking Dallas at all.”