From here on out, the 8-1 Dallas Cowboys will only go as far as two rookies can take them.
Last time we saw a fully healthy Tony Romo, he was leading the NFL in completion percentage, touchdown rate, yards per attempt, passer efficiency rating and Total QBR. He was on everyone's MVP candidate shortlist and leading the Cowboys deep into the NFC playoffs. Then he busted his collarbone (again) and was done for the season. Then he broke a bone in his back this preseason and, after yesterday, is done for the season again.
He could only watch, sitting on a heated bench and snuggled under a heated blanket, as the rookie drafted to learn from him led his team to one of the most thrilling victories of the season. 65 points, seven lead changes, countless big plays, and limitless drama all ended up with the Cowboys' eighth straight win—and a permanent seat on the bench for Romo.
Dak Prescott did everything he needed to do to prove he's the guy to take the Cowboys from Thanksgiving to the end of their playoff run: Avoid interceptions (none), make big plays (touchdown passes of 50 and 83 yards), and hand it off to Ezekiel freakin' Elliott:
"If it ain't broke don't fix it" is a compelling argument for inertia, especially when a team has momentum like this. But until the Cowboys came into Heinz Field and beat the Steelers at their best, there was an equally compelling argument for putting Romo in: This team could go to the Super Bowl, and rookie quarterbacks don't win Super Bowls.
Had the Cowboys lost this game, head coach Jason Garrett would have had to look hard at bringing on Romo to face a rough winter slate: Baltimore and Washington four days apart, then at the Vikings and Giants, hosting the Buccaneers and Lions before going on the road to close the season at Philadelphia. If the Cowboys had been sitting at 7-2, with games against all the teams chasing them, it'd be hard to justify the risk of starting a rookie all the way through.
But at 8-1, the Cowboys ain't broke and now that Dak's passed the sternest test he'll face before Week 17, Garrett's mind has been made up for him. There's no way he can bench the red-hot rookie for the ice-cold veteran, and no time to change his mind if in a few weeks it's clear he's made the wrong decision.
This is now Dak's team, which means—barring injury (please gosh no)—Tony Romo's Cowboys career is over. He'll have that plum warm spot on the bench all to himself as Dak leads them to the Super Bowl championship that would have beautifully capped Romo's career…or not.