ARLINGTON, Texas — Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo makes a ton of highlight reel plays.
Good and bad.
Always a lightning rod, Romo's detractors have more ammunition after he threw five interceptions in a 34-18 loss to Chicago Monday night at Cowboys Stadium.
“The No. 1 factor is taking care of the football,” Romo said. “I know that ... Obviously it's going to suck for a few days. It's going to sit there in your stomach and eat at you.”
The five interceptions matched Romo's career high against Buffalo five years ago. The first three interceptions were unusual, which will lead to debates how much blame Romo deserves. The final two interceptions were clearly all on Romo.
“I can't try and do too much,” Romo said. “I think I tried to do too much tonight. Going forward I just have to do my job. And I will.”
The game's pivotal play essentially was a fumble as much as an interception late in the third quarter. When Henry Melton tackled Romo from behind the ball squirted forward. Bears linebacker Lance Briggs grabbed the ball in midair and rambled 74 yards for a touchdown.
It was the game's defining stretch. On the previous play Dallas linebacker DeMarcus Ware gave the Cowboys excellent field position by forcing a Jay Cutler fumble at the Chicago 27.
Instead of Dallas slicing into a 10-point deficit the Bears went up 24-7 on Briggs' TD with 6:11 left in the third quarter.
“There are situations out there where you're trying to do too much,” Romo said. “I think that's going to catch up to you at some point. I have to reassess things that are happening and make sure they don't happen again.”
Romo threw two pick-sixes.
The Bears took a 10-0 lead late in the first half when Romo and receiver Dez Bryant weren't on the same page. Romo threw a curl route. Bryant ran a streak route. Chicago safety Charles Tillman picked it off for an easy 25-yard touchdown.
“It's probably not characterized the right way to say it was a miscommunication,” said Dallas coach Jason Garrett. “It was based on how the corner played. Dez saw it one way and Tony saw it the other way.”
Romo's third interception also wasn't routine. Romo threw a bullet at Kevin Ogletree's chest. Chicago cornerback Tim Jennings stuck his hand in to tip the ball into the air. Safety Major Wright waited for the ball to come down like a popup for an easy interception.
Trailing 27-10 in the fourth quarter, Romo's fourth and fifth interceptions were Romo trying to squeeze the ball into tight coverage. D.J. Moore and Wright stepped in front of receivers for easy picks.
“At the point it's a case of being overly aggressive,” Garrett said. “You want to go down and score and score as quickly as you can. He was overly aggressive with the last two interceptions.
“But the earlier one was a contested throw to Ogletree. You had the miscommunication with Dez Bryant and the other one was escaping the pocket and it got knocked out. Those two were returned for touchdowns. Those were the big plays. That's what they do. They're an outstanding defense.”
Cutler, another quarterback often criticized for inconsistent play, completed 18 of 24 passes for 275 yards and two TDs.
Throwing no interceptions, Cutler led Chicago on a 73-yard drive to open the second half, capped by a sliding Devin Hester 34-yard grab. Cutler took advantage of a blitz that left Hester one-on-one with Dallas rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne.
Claiborne was involved in another key play. Claiborne stole the ball from Chicago wide receiver Alshon Jeffery late in the third quarter. The original call was Dallas possession at the Chicago 30. After reviewing the play, the play was reversed, giving the ball back to the Bears.
Bryant, the former Oklahoma State star, hauled in eight catches for 105 yards and a 2-point conversion. But in addition to his misread with Romo, Bryant dropped a long-gainer and was flagged for an illegal shift penalty.
Maybe Dallas owner Jerry Jones needs to keep the roof closed in his $1.2 billion palace. With the roof and doors open for the first time in two years, the Cowboys fell to 1-4 when the roof is open. The only win was against Oakland on Thanksgiving 2009.
The Cowboys have a bye next week. After the off week they face a brutal stretch with four of their next five games on the road, starting with a game at Baltimore. The only home game in October is against the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
“The bye week always comes at a good time relative to injuries,” Garrett said, referring to three of the defensive front seven not playing Monday night. “Hopefully, we can get a lot of these guys back for Baltimore.”