Tony Romo’s performance on Sunday against the Denver Broncos was nothing but spectacular. Throwing for over 500 yards with 5 touchdowns, you couldn’t have asked for a better performance. Dallas’ defense on the other hand gave up 51 points and Peyton Manning threw for 414 yards 4 scores himself. Scoring a combined 99 points with nearly a thousand yards of combined offensive output between the two, this game is easily the “The Shootout in Jerry World”.
With time winding down, the play Dallas fans will remember about this game will be the interception thrown by Tony Romo. Gavin Escobar had a man behind him and another covering on the left side, Romo throws and Danny Trevathan takes the ball away, sinking the hearts of Cowboy fans everywhere as the Broncos force the Cowboys into using their 3 timeouts and eventually kick the game winning field goal.
From a fans perspective, immediately after the game you want to point to Romo as the main reason the Cowboys lost the game but if you take a look at the games that were close, the Dallas defense is equally to blame. Had Peyton Manning had more pressure and the defense was able to slow him down, that interception wouldn’t occur if the defense kept the Broncos from scoring as much the Cowboys had. Romo and company would have been handing Demarco Murray the ball and taking time off of the clock.
Unfortunately, this has happened before and fans have seen it too often. They immediately want to blame #9 for the loss. Should he take all of the blame and be labeled a “choke artist”? To some extent, it is safe to say he cannot handle the pressure of a game. Those “pressure cooker” games where the defense isn’t holding their end and the offense is keeping toe-to-toe with the opposing offense, Romo has shown time and time again, he cannot handle it.
Last season, Dallas only needed to win the game against the hated Washington Redskins and lose 28-18. Romo threw a late interception to Rob Jackson. Dallas at that point were down by only three points and could have gone down the field to win it. Romo threw three interceptions that day and the defense allowed Alfred Jackson to score 3 times enroute to a 200 yard rushing day.
Take it back to 2011, against the New York Jets they have a 14 point 4th quarter lead. The defense allows Mark Sanchez to throw a touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress then the special teams unit allows a blocked punt to be returned for a touchdown. Romo tops the icing on the cake by throwing an interception to Darrelle Rivas. That interception positioned the Jets and former Cowboys kicker Nick Folk to kick the game winning field goal.
In 2010, against the Tennessee Titans the Cowboys are down 34-27. The offense stalls out and can’t convert a 4th and 9. Then with 0:47 left and 77 yards to paydirt, Romo’s first pass of the series is intercepted ending the game.
The New York Giants won a 2009 contest that they shouldn’t have. Dallas takes 31-30 lead with 3:40 left. The defense doesn’t get the necessary stop and allows the Giants to score a game winning field goal. Romo had 3 interceptions that game.
With playing a 2008 overtime contest against the Arizona Cardinals, the Cowboys showed once again various ways to lose. This time Romo started the overtime period getting sacked and injured. With no Romo, the offense goes three and out proceeds to allow the Cardinals to block the punt for a touchdown.
In 2007, against the Giants once again this time in the playoffs, Romo and company are down 21-17 with 1:50 left in the game. They are on the Giants’ 48 yard line and only move the ball 25 yards. The drive sees three incomplete passes and the last pass was intercepted in the end zone, ending the game and any hopes of moving forward in the playoffs.
The game that started the “choke artist” talk will always be the Seattle game. It was Romo’s first year as a starter and the Cowboys were in the playoffs. Jason Witten was short on a pass play for the first down. Out comes Romo, who is also the holder for the kicker. At the time, Romo was considered a backup quarterback and relegated to the job. Little did the coaching staff plan for Romo to take over the starting job so no backup holder was in place. Romo took the snap from the center, botches the snap and can’t get the ball down. He then picks up the ball and runs to the left side of the end zone. Fans see Romo jump for the goal line only to be stopped short. From that point on, he went from being the franchise savior to “choke artist” within a few games.
There have been several more instances of Romo having bad games and throwing untimely interceptions, having fumbles at inopportune times, or getting penalties that killed drives. The bottom line is that he is not the only one to blame. To call Romo a “choke artist”, that name needs to be shared with the defense as well. Granted, some of the games had multiple interceptions but in cases like last Sunday’s game against the Broncos, blame should be spread around evenly. Sunday’s loss was a team loss. Many of the games mentioned above could have been avoidable losses had the defense had stepped up or the special teams performed better. Throwing the blame on one player isn’t correct in a team sport. The team let us down by not finishing the game against the Broncos. The Dallas defense needs to concentrate on getting the offense in better positions to win and score, while the offense needs to concentrate on moving the ball methodically enough that the defense isn’t on the field a majority of the game. Either way, the Cowboys need to bounce back when the play this Sunday against the Washington Redskins to stay atop the NFC East or we will be talking about how they “choked” after being on top for the first part of the season only to lose their grip. Let’s hope that is not the case, if the Cowboys can keep winning out and the rest of the division stay as abysmal as they have been, we have a chance of winning the NFC East for the first time since 2009.