ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Tony Romo played through broken ribs to help keep the season afloat for Dallas in 2011.
The injury isn't as serious this time, which means the task doesn't appear as daunting for the Cowboys quarterback.
Romo has bruised ribs after he was crunched between two defenders late in the first half of a 36-31 win over the New York Giants in the opener. He played the second half and says he's just dealing with soreness heading into Sunday's game at Kansas City.
The offense didn't do much when Romo returned — just 98 yards after halftime. And the Cowboys never could put away the Giants despite the gift of six turnovers from a revamped defense.
But Romo thinks Dallas has something to build on.
"More than anything they wanted to keep everything in front of them and really make us move the ball with a lot of plays," said Romo, who was 36 of 49 for 263 yards with two touchdowns to Jason Witten and an interception. "I think in this type of game, you've got to protect the football. If we continue to do that, it will help us."
Romo has one of the best averages in the league in yards per pass attempt. He had one of the lowest of his career against the Giants, and his numbers weren't too far off his first full game with his rib injury two years ago. He had 255 passing yards and nursed the Cowboys to an 18-16 victory over Washington — all on field goals.
Coach Jason Garrett says the injury isn't taking away any throws Romo needs to make, even though it looked like a problem on his first try after halftime against the Giants. He rolled out and severely underthrew Dez Bryant on a deep ball, although he did have pressure closing in.
"There was a guy up in his face and he couldn't really get into it," Garrett said. "It seemed to me when he threw it he had to kind of fall off it. That might have had something to do with the rib, but I think the guy bothered him just as much."
The best thing Romo and the Cowboys did against the Giants was protect the ball while Eli Manning and the Giants were giving it away with three interceptions, two fumbles from new starting running back David Wilson and a muffed punt return.
The only Dallas turnover came when rookie receiver Terrance Williams appeared to be in the wrong place, leading to a 91-yard interception return by Ryan Mundy. DeMarco Murray ran Mundy down at the 1, and the Cowboys forced a field goal.
Now the Cowboys face a Kansas City defense that held Jacksonville to 178 total yards in a 28-2 victory. It was the lowest total for the Chiefs since 2009.
"I think this might be our, of our opening five, six games, this could be the toughest with the environment and the problems what they do defensively and their scheme," Romo said. "This will be a very difficult game to go in and execute a high level."
The Dallas offensive line help up pretty well against the Giants with two players making their NFL debuts in rookie center Travis Frederick — the Cowboys' first-round pick — and left guard Ron Leary, a second-year player who spent of last season on the practice squad.
The Cowboys are closer to putting six-time Pro Bowl guard Brian Waters on the field after he signed last week following a year away from football. He's likely to play on the right side, where Mackenzy Bernadeau was the starter against New York.
While Romo was sacked twice — and injured throwing an incompletion — he wasn't constantly under siege against the Giants. And while the running game wasn't spectacular — DeMarco Murray had 86 yards on 20 carries — it was solid.
The Cowboys had some failures inside the 20, most notably settling for a field goal after DeMarcus Ware intercepted Manning's first pass of the game. But there was some success in an area that was a persistent problem a year ago. Jason Witten had both offensive touchdowns from inside the 20 after scoring just three times in 2012.
"There's a long way to go," Frederick said. "I'm not quite where I need to be. I think I held my own in there. But I was just holding my own. I wasn't excelling. I wasn't doing the things that I needed to do to really make a difference in the game."
Right now, making a difference means protecting Romo.