ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - His old coach once said a quarterback's mettle is truly tested once he gets hit in the mouth.
Tony Romo took several shots to the chin Monday night. Six, in fact, when considering his five interceptions and lost fumble that gravely jeopardized the Cowboys' first 5-0 start in 24 years.
But based on Bill Parcells' adage, Romo proved something new to himself and his teammates in the Cowboys' dramatic 25-24 win over Buffalo.
"He was a fighter, man," tight end Jason Witten said. "That just shows what kind of character he has, the competitor he is. Really a leader for this team."
Romo hadn't dealt with this much adversity since the infamous dropped field-goal snap in the Cowboys' wild-card loss to Seattle this past January. He responded in the first four games this season by earning NFC Offensive Player of the Month honors with a conference-best 112.9 passer rating.
That rating was shattered in the first half by an unthinkable four interceptions. Romo threw a fifth pick in the fourth quarter with the offense driving towards a potential game-tying touchdown and two-point conversion, all leaving him with a season-low 49.9 QB rating for this game.
"I just kept telling him in his ear, 'It's not going to be easy,'" wide receiver Terrell Owens said. "'We're going to get everyone's best.'"
Said Witten: "I tried to say something to him just because we're buddies and everything, but he doesn't need that. He's got confidence in what he is and what he does. I think that shows at the end of the game. As bad as he may have played, without him we're not in that thing at the end."
Romo ultimately put his team in position to win. He threw a touchdown pass to Patrick Crayton to cut Buffalo's lead to 24-22, then got Nick Folk in position for his game-winning field goal following an onside kick.
Not pretty, but effective when it counted most.
And his teammates noticed.
"He already had the respect of this team," Witten said, "but I think this team really respects the way he played tonight and the way he fought."
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