As fate would have it, Green Bay Packers quarterback Matt Flynn grew up in Tyler, Tex. and is now preparing to face off against the team he grew up cheering––the Dallas Cowboys.
Meanwhile, the quarterback at the helm of "America's Team" on Sunday will be Tony Romo, who grew up in Burlington, Wis.
"Kind of weird, isn't it?" said Flynn.
Weird indeed, as Flynn continues to work as the Packers' starting quarterback for as long as Aaron Rodgers remains out with a broken collarbone.
As a youngster, Flynn looked up to the Dallas Cowboys quarterback known today as Fox's top game analyst that will work Sunday's game.
"Troy Aikman," said Flynn when asked of his favorite player. "That was kind of the heyday when I was growing up. I kind of grew up every year they were in Super Bowls."
It's a role reversal of sorts for Flynn and Romo, each of them trying to keep their respective teams alive for a spot in the NFC playoff chase.
For Romo, he's in the midst of one of his best seasons in the NFL, now in his 11th year as a professional. One of the things that's come with age for Romo is striking a balance between hitting on the big plays and limiting the poor decisions, as evidenced by his 27-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2013.
With stats like that, it's no coincidence the Cowboys are the third-highest scoring team in the league, putting up an average of 27.5 points per game and have the No. 2 red-zone offense, scoring touchdowns at a rate of 70.7 percent.
"He's doing a really good job making plays for us and also minimizing the bad plays, which is really what every quarterback is trying to get accomplished around the league," said Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett in a conference call with Wisconsin media. "I think he's done that on a fairly consistent basis."
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy also spoke glowingly of the Wisconsin native.
"I think Tony is definitely one of the top guys in the league from a production standpoint," said McCarthy. "He does a lot at the line of scrimmage. You can see he has total command of the offense, makes all the throws, does a good job utilizing the receivers, really does a good job of attacking the middle of the field with the instinct-type throws, the anticipation throws. I think he's having a heck of a year."
For as well as Romo is playing, however, the Cowboys have their faults, namely a leaky defense that's among the bottom dwellers in the NFL. It's part of the reason the Cowboys are sporting a 7-6 record that's just above average.
But perhaps the entire team has taken a cue from Romo. Despite how poorly the Dallas defense has performed, they know the value of turnovers, recovering 12 fumbles this season, which ranks second in the league. It's one of the few things the unit does exceedingly well.
Romo protects the football and the Cowboys defense does a good job of taking it away, combining for a turnover ratio of plus-12.
This is a fact not lost on Flynn, who's acutely aware of the danger the Dallas defense poses.
"They got a lot of guys with good ball skills, and they play at a high effort and really try to surround the ball," said Flynn. "So we got to take care of it and we have to execute. The reason people are making plays is because they're executing out there."
In the three games since replacing Rodgers, Flynn has a two-to-two interception ratio that might not seem lethal to Packers' chances of winning, but he's also lost three fumbles in just a fraction of the playing time Romo has played in 2013. By comparison, the Cowboys quarterback has lost only one.
At least the monkey is off Flynn's back. The Packers showed they could win without Rodgers last Sunday in a win against the Atlanta Falcons behind the leadership of Flynn, and now the challenge becomes keeping the momentum going.
Whereas Romo is the unquestioned starter in Dallas, Flynn is merely the backup in Green Bay, ready to give way whenever Rodgers returns. But if he's going to direct the Packers to victory Sunday, Flynn would be wise to take a cue from Romo and avoid the turnovers that so often are the difference between a win and loss.
"He's a good young quarterback," said Romo. "He's got good poise. You can tell he's learned a little bit through osmosis with watching Aaron and following some of his mannerisms as far as the drop and the we he goes through progressions and his overall footwork in some ways looks similar. And he's done a real good job for them."
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].
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