IRVING, Texas (AP) — Tony Romo had a Peyton Manning comparison dropped on him by his owner in the offseason.
Jerry Jones was talking about meeting rooms and film rooms when he said the Dallas quarterback would be putting in "Peyton Manning-type time" after he signed the richest contract in franchise history.
It's a good thing Jones didn't say anything about Peyton Manning-type statistics. So far this year, nobody compares.
Manning has the Denver Broncos at 4-0 with 16 touchdown passes and no interceptions heading into his first game at the Cowboys' $1.2 billion stadium Sunday.
Romo has just one interception, but his offense has been hit-or-miss in a 2-2 start.
"I think you've got to just play each play out, regardless of circumstance, what gives your team the best chance to score and to win the game," said Romo, who has eight touchdown passes and is fourth in the league in quarterback rating. "And then obviously, when it gets to a certain point in the game, you're going to have to do things to give your team a chance."
The best chance for the Cowboys is to keep scoring, which they didn't do in a loss at San Diego last weekend. Romo threw a pair of second-quarter touchdowns to Dez Bryant, but those were the only points for the offense. The Chargers scored the last 20 points in a 30-21 win.
Part of the problem was Dallas didn't have the ball much after halftime. But the other part of the problem was stalling twice around midfield in the second half. The Cowboys probably can't afford to do that with Manning's Broncos averaging nearly 45 points.
"You've got to do things to keep drives alive and take advantage of your opportunities," Dallas tight end Jason Witten said. "I don't think you can get outside your system, the way you play, and play into their hands. You have to trust that and obviously you have a lot of respect in what they're doing as a football team."
Jones tied his quarterback to Manning with the offseason mantra that Romo would be more involved in everything about the Cowboys.
It started with a statement from Jones the day Romo signed a six-year, $108 million extension in March and the owner said his quarterback would have a lot more involvement in the offense. A few later, he offered the "Peyton Manning-type time" sound bite.
Critics took it to mean Romo wasn't invested enough in the first place, and the Cowboys have been trying to shoot that down ever since.
They didn't have to make their pitch to Manning.
"Look, every quarterback that is starting in this league multiple years puts in time," Manning said. "I feel like I do what I need to do to get ready to play. But any quarterback who is a starter year after year, I promise you they're putting the work in in the facility on their own. Otherwise, it shows up and you lose your job."
Dallas coach Jason Garrett has been deflecting the criticism for months, but always stopping short of offering many details on how much Romo's involvement has changed. Garrett, once the backup to Troy Aikman in Dallas, was the offensive coordinator for Romo's first full season as a starter in 2007, and they've been together ever since.
"I don't know that it's appreciably different, but the idea is that we are really as a team trying to emphasize that and ... empower him to do that more and more," Garrett said. "You want him to like the plays you are calling into his helmet so he can go play his best football."
With Romo more involved and Bill Callahan replacing Garrett as the play-caller, the offense is heavily dissected every week. When the running game sputtered in a loss at Kansas City, Dallas answered with 175 yards rushing from DeMarco Murray.
This week, the questions revolve around whether Dallas can sustain anything — and whether they can exploit the only weakness in Denver's stats so far. The Broncos are close to the bottom of the league in pass defense.
"I think probably the reason that the pass numbers aren't quite as good as they'd want them to be is because they've been way ahead in ballgames and teams have to throw the ball over and over and over again," Garrett said. "They're willing to give up those yards to win the ballgame."
Opponents just have a hard time keeping up with — and comparing to — Manning.
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