IRVING, Texas - Perceptions shift quickly in the NFL.

Tony Romo is an example. Football experts from Regis Philbin to Deion Sanders - OK, only one of those is an expert, your choice - have been critical of his performance this season. Some have argued the quarterback is the anchor around the Cowboys' neck that leads to the team's annual December plunge in the standings.

Those opinions are so yesterday. Romo enters this Christmas Eve showdown with the Eagles at the peak of his powers. He gets it.

Owner Jerry Jones knows what a quarterback with a hot hand can mean this time of year. Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, anyone?

That's why he calls it a career disappointment if the Cowboys don't hold onto their NFC East lead to make the playoffs.

"He's really playing well," Jones said of Romo. "At the end of the day, that's why we just can't [miss] the tournament because he's playing so well."

Romo is one of only four players with a quarterback rating of over 100. The others are Rodgers, New Orleans' Drew Brees, and New England's Tom Brady.

The quarterback has thrown at least one touchdown pass in all but one game this season. That came in Week 3 in his first start after he suffered a fractured rib and punctured lung. He has not thrown an interception in eight of his 14 games.

It's no coincidence that Romo has been at his best since showing critics his worst. His three interceptions - the first two returned for touchdowns and a third that set up a touchdown - are why the Cowboys blew a franchise-record 24-point lead in a loss to Detroit.

Romo concedes he has changed his thought process since that game. He no longer tries to compensate for the mistakes of his teammates, compounding the problem in the process. He focuses on doing his job and has faith the rest will take care of itself.

This is a principle Romo has always understood. Head coach Jason Garrett said his quarterback just needed to be reminded.

The result: Romo has thrown 22 touchdown passes and just four interceptions since the loss to the Lions to open October.

"Clearly, the quarterback position is the leadership position on the team," Garrett said. "So if you have a guy who steps into that role and grabs all that comes with that, you have his ability as a player and his ability to relate to guys, I think it's a real positive thing for your football team.

"We've had a lot of success with him as our quarterback, and I think our team understands that."

Romo had little success the first time the Cowboys faced the Eagles this season. The Eagles held a 14-0 lead before Romo threw his third pass. It didn't help that tight end Martellus Bennett batted that pass into the air, where it could be intercepted by cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.

In case you're wondering, the Eagles responded with another touchdown off that play on their way to a 34-7 victory.

Sanders said earlier this season that Romo is "not the guy that can take you where you want to go." Jones will tell you he is.

Romo's performance these next two games will factor prominently in the debate.

"You understand that a football season has adversity, has good times, and you've just got to keep coming back and keep getting better and keep letting the guys know that everything is still out in front of you," Romo said. "You need to come back and play your best game. You need to be committed and you need to go out and do it now.

"I think our team understands that and is ready to give great effort and get on a roll."