Those fingers that crept ever so slightly over the end zone boundary’s white surface will be the centerpiece of the lasting image from a game which ended as a microcosm of Tony Romo, the Cowboy, the quarterback, and the man, but definitely not the legend.

He’s Bart Starr, and then for fleeting, crushing seconds, he’s JaMarcus Russell. He’s loved, and then he’s hated. He’s accurate, and then he’s throwing a pick to a defensive lineman (this actually happened). He’s Tony Romo, and he’s equally brilliant and mystifying, and today we saw doses of both split almost directly down the middle.

In the Cowboys’ eventual loss to the Giants — splitting the season series with their division rivals and falling three games back in the NFC East — Romo threw four interceptions. He’s now thrown 13 picks over seven games, a number that’s either horrendous or sort of OK depending on the level of liquid in your glass. Of those picks, nine of them have come in two particularly Romo-y games, with his other high-volume pick outing coming in Week 4 against the Bears when he threw five. Over his other five games, Romo’s thrown only four interceptions.

So there’s that if you’d like to grasp for some optimism, Cowboys fans and Romo owners. He doesn’t throw interceptions all the time, but when he does Romo is sure to chuck all the interceptions in one game. Hooray? In fairness, Dez Bryant may have contributed to one of the INTs by running an incorrect route, which isn’t the first time Bryant’s vast collection of creative ways to screw up has made Romo look incompetent.

But this game was particularly odd, with the ineptitude of the Cowboys’ offense leading to a 23-0 hole that they eventually clawed back from to obtain a brief lead which was then erased when a Felix Jones fumble led to the game-winning field goal, leading his offense down the field far enough for a game-winning field goal. The aforementioned picture then becomes the symbol of heroics that failed not due to effort or poor luck, although the latter didn’t help. Two fingers inside of that white paint, and we forget the overall lack of cohesiveness from a Cowboys offense that’s still failing to fulfilling it’s collective upside.

In that sense, the ending was fitting, because this Cowboys team and this Cowboys offense didn’t deserve to have the air freshener of that Bryant game-winning catch sprayed over the otherwise steaming excrement they left in the first half.

What’s especially discouraging is that a record-setting day was wasted. I need something uplifting to end this day, so let’s use that record to lead the rest of our quick notes on the late games (*looks at fantasy team, realizes that Jason Witten was on the bench in favor of Tony Gonzalez, drinks gin*).

Jason Witten caught a lot of footballs

He caught 18 of them, though surely he caught the same football more than once. That’s only three short of Brandon Marshall’s record of 21 receptions in a game set in 2009, and it comes during the same season that Danny Amdenola tied Reggie Wayne’s record for the most receptions in a half (12). The passing era, it’s growing.

Those who own and started Witten in point-per-reception leagues are clearly filled with the most glee, as with his 167 receiving yards (a career high) he finished with 26 points. Witten’s early-season drops — including three in one game — are quickly fading to become a distant memory.

Ahmad Bradshaw is still hurting

That’s a pretty easy assumption after what we saw today, and similar to Michael Turner’s plodding, bumbling performance earlier, Bradshaw’s laboring contributed to the Cowboys ability to stick around and claw back, with the Giants unable to kill the clock in the second half.

We can only hope that Bradshaw’s health was lacking after he’s fought a foot injury all season, although he appeared to be running and cutting at full speed. Against a defense playing its first game without Sean Lee, Bradshaw was able to average only 3.6 yards per carry on 78 yards overall. Meanwhile, Andre Brown showed more burst, and needed only three carries to finish with 21 yards.

The appearance of the other Eli

The book of Eli has mostly brought us pleasant, wistful tales this year. But today we saw the other Eli, the guy who sort of resembles the other Romo, just not nearly as awful when he’s asked to make routine decisions.

This wasn’t a good look for the younger Manning, but it’s a poor outing that’s greeted with little surprise due to the effectiveness of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, the Cowboys’ cornerback tandem that leads one of the league’s best pass defenses, allowing an average of 187.3 yards per game. But regardless of the opponent, it’s striking to see a quarterback who had 510 passing yards in a game this year (Week 2) and has logged two other 300-yard games held to only 192 yards. More importantly, Manning completed just 51.7 percent of his passes, which is significantly lower than his 62.6 percentage on the season.

The disappearance of Jamaal Charles

In the other game late game that no one watched, we were aware that trying times could lie ahead for Jamaal Charles. That’s because the Chiefs running back was attempting to run against the Raiders, and stopping the run is pretty much the only thing Oakland does consistently with any degree of effectiveness. And we were cool with that, and ready for a dud.

We weren’t cool with is Charles barely even getting a chance to attempt a run against the Raiders. But there it is, still staring at us in the boxscore. Of the 13 times the Chiefs handed the ball to a running back in their loss to the Raiders (26-16), Charles only had said ball in his gut five times. Health wasn’t a factor, and instead Brian Daboll’s lunacy was to blame.

After the game Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel was asked why Charles received so few carries, and in a response that’s surely led to a few broken TVs in Kansas City — the land that God hath forsaken — he said “you know, I’m not exactly sure.”  Crennel could have at least attempted to not sound like a raving fool with his choice of post-game words, but word selection has never been his strong suit. The reality, though, is that at the time he probably didn’t know. That’s because as a defensive-minded head coach, he gives control of the offensive almost entirely to Daboll, his offensive coordinator.

So a conversation is surely about to take place regarding why a running back who was averaging nearly 100 yards per game prior to today (98.5, for those who enjoy exact numbers) had only one more carry than Peyton Hillis. Now, if the motivation was to lessen his workload because suddenly the Chiefs care about not tearing apart their running back who’s still not all that far removed from tearing an important part of his body, then fair enough. The concern, though, is that they’ve swung way too far in the other direction, and they’re incapable of finding any soft of balance.

Lead pic via Jose 3030