For a split second, it looked like another dose of disaster to fuel the haters.
The snap was low, in the turf. But with the game — and a miraculous comeback on the line in the waning seconds Sunday night — Tony Romo didn't flinch.
Instead, the most scrutinized quarterback in America calmly scooped up the football, regained his rhythm, set his feet and fired the game-winning touchdown pass over the middle to his most trusted target, tight end Jason Witten.
It was also a clear snapshot of how the Dallas Cowboys might survive in the coming weeks without their most dangerous weapon. Yes, Romo will have to get it done.
Dez Bryant's tweet later in the night said it all: "I'll be back soon but how about 9????????"
That would be Romo, No. 9, who suddenly has added layers of adversity and responsibility on his plate while Bryant rehabs from surgery for a broken bone in his foot.
What a sudden identity shift for the Cowboys. But that's the NFL — a fire here, a flood there. Adapt or else.
When the Cowboys head to Philadelphia this weekend for an early showdown to determine NFC East supremacy, the running back who took so much pressure off Romo by winning the rushing crown last season, DeMarco Murray, will be lining up for the hated Eagles. And the receiver who torched the since-overhauled Eagles secondary for three touchdowns in the December game at the Linc that essentially determined 2014 the division crown will be home with his foot in a cast.
So now it's on Romo to keep his team moving.
No doubt, he's well-equipped on multiple levels. Since he became a starter in 2006, no quarterback in the NFL has directed more game-winning touchdown drives. The march Sunday night, aided by New York Giants blunders (the Cowboys were out of timeouts) that left Romo extra time to work his magic, marked his 28th such victory drive.
He's also equipped to handle the upcoming grind mentally. Romo has had some last-minute mishaps over the years, which his detractors cite to suggest he can't win the big one. But in reality, he gets a bad rap. More often than not, as demonstrated against the Giants, Romo is clutch.
It's tough to imagine that he can be under the microscope any more than he has been while playing for arguably the most high-profile team in the NFL. But it's possible. Over the next few weeks, Dallas needs Romo to excel with the no-name targets flanking Witten. That's what the great ones can do for a team, and Romo has been there before.