Tony Romo was great on Sunday. Tony Romo threw a costly interception Sunday. Tony Romo choked. All you have heard the last two days was that it was Tony Romo’s fault that the Cowboys lost on Sunday. Was the interception costly? Sure it was. But let’s forget about the interception for a second. The defense gave up 51 points. 51! Let that sink in for a moment. And yet, somehow, the defense has been given a pass by the media. Tony Romo addressed the media after the game and took the blame. But where was Monte Kiffin? Where was DeMarcus Ware? Neither man decided to help shoulder any of the blame.
Which brings me to DeMarcus Ware. The seven time pro bowl player had zero impact on the game that was hanging in the balance all day. We often hear the narrative that Tony Romo isn’t clutch in the fourth quarter, but what about Ware? When is the last time Ware made a big play late a game to help decide a game? It hasn’t been often. Look at this chart compared to some of the best pass rushers in the league:
DeMarcus Ware has played 113 snaps the last two games and has recorded one quarterback hit and no sacks against two undrafted free agent backup offensive tackles. That is unacceptable. Monte Kiffin’s defense is predicated on the right defensive end creating pressure off the edge. And Ware hasn’t done that so far in the last two losses. As a perennial pro-bowler, you can’t completely disappear in big games. To his credit, he has played when he isn’t 100%. Ware is dealing with a bad shoulder, but as most players do, (including Tony Romo) they have to play through injuries and be able to produce.
In DeMarcus Ware’s last 21 games, he has only 2.5 sacks with 1 forced fumble in games that are within seven points. And anoher thing that is killing the Cowboys defense is the fact that Ware has 10 penalties in the same amount of games. Look, DeMarcus Ware is still a really good player in this league. He is still is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. But he isn’t as dominant as he was in 2007 and 2008. In 2008, Ware accumulated 7.0 sacks in the last two minutes of halves. In his last 37 games, he has only registered 3.5 sacks at the end of halves.
So what is the problem with DeMarcus Ware? Why isn’t he producing in the fourth quarter? Ware is 31 years old and isn’t as explosive as he was in his early 20′s. His first step explosion is a bit slower but more importantly and concerning, he is wearing down. The team has been crushed this year with injuries on the defensive line and there is no one on the team to spell Ware. If the Cowboys can’t find anyone to rotate with Ware, this defensive line will crumble and be one of the worst in the league by December.
But at the end of the day, the Cowboys need their best defensive player to rise up and make plays, regardless if he is tired. Last Sunday’s game against Denver was the perfect game for Ware to do so. Instead, they allowed Peyton Manning to get comfortable and allowed 140 passing yards and scores on all three of Denver’s drives in the fourth quarter. If the Cowboys want to be a playoff team this year, they are going to need other players to rise up in the fourth quarter and help pull out wins. DeMarcus Ware should feel fortunate that Tony Romo has taken so much of the blame for this Sunday’s loss. It is the perfect deodorant for Ware and the defense’s bad play. But right now it is time for this defense and Ware to go win a game for the Cowboys.