IRVING (AP) — Standing on the sideline, scowling and gingerly holding his bandaged right arm, all Brett Favre could do was watch Tony Romo impersonate him.
The kid was good. Too good for Favre and the Green Bay Packers.
The Wisconsin native who spent all week denying Favre was his childhood hero sure played a lot like a young No. 4 Thursday night — full of moxie and joy, but needing a bit of a high-wire act to send the Dallas Cowboys past the Packers 37-27 and into the lead for home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
Romo threw four touchdown passes to send the Cowboys (11-1) to their sixth straight win. The Packers (10-2) ended a six-game winning streak and are now essentially two games behind Dallas in the chase for the conference’s top spot with only four games left.
The bigger concern for Green Bay is Favre’s health.
Favre injured his right elbow in the second quarter and didn’t return, perhaps jeopardizing his run of 249 consecutive starts, a record that’s about six seasons longer than the next-best by a quarterback. He has 10 days to heal before the Packers play again, Dec. 9 at home against Oakland. The injury could be similar to a banged-up nerve in his right elbow that knocked him out of a game last November.
Backup Aaron Rodgers, who spent the week pretending he was Romo in Green Bay practices, provided the kind of rally Favre usually specializes in. He threw the first touchdown pass of his three-year career, but wasn’t able to lead a Favre-esque rally.
The excitement of facing Favre brought out the best in Romo as he led the Cowboys to scores on their first five drives, capping the last three with touchdown passes. But once Rodgers came in, Romo lost his mojo, and so did Dallas.
A 27-10 lead frittered to 27-24, in part because of a failed fourth-down conversion when the Cowboys could have tried a field goal to stretch their lead to 30-17. Dallas really looked like it might blow it when Terrell Owens juggled a pass in the end zone and wound up flipping it over his head to cornerback Al Harris for an interception.
Green Bay’s bid for a go-ahead tying touchdown ended quickly, then Romo drove right back for a lead-stretching touchdown — to Patrick Crayton, not Owens.
Trailing 34-24, Rodgers was only able to get a field goal to get the Packers within a touchdown. They needed a stop from the defense, but with Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and cornerback Charles Woodson inactive with injuries, the unit wasn’t up to the task. A clock-draining drive resulted in Nick Folk’s third field goal and a 10-point lead with 1:03 left — and with Favre nowhere in sight.
He ran back to the locker room with 2:23 left.
Romo was 19-of-30 for 309 yards. His four TD throws give him 33 for the year, smashing the club record. He tied another club mark by throwing a touchdown in his 16th straight game. Better yet, he did it not only in front of Favre, but also honorary captains Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman.
“I don’t play for individual records,” Romo said. “That’s a testament to our team.”
Owens caught seven passes for 156 yards and a touchdown. He tied a team record with his 14th TD catch of the season and tied another mark with a TD catch in seven straight games. Crayton caught two of the touchdowns and tight end Anthony Fasano had the other.
Dallas extended the best start in franchise history. With four games left, the Cowboys already have their most wins in a season since going 12-4 in 1995 — their last Super Bowl season — and they’re two wins from matching the franchise record.
The Packers are still in great shape for at least the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye because their next three opponents have losing records. And the idea of starting Rodgers next week may no longer be as dreadful to fans who have wondered if he was a wasted draft pick. In the most extended action of his career, he was 18-of-26 for 201 yards and a touchdown with no turnovers.
His numbers were a lot better than Favre’s 5-of-14 for 56 yards with two interceptions.