Can Tony Romo Have 4th Quarter Success Without DeMarco Murray?
Nothing stopped Tony Romo in 2014.
How about two back surgeries prior to the start of the 2014 season? That should stop the Dallas Cowboys quarterback, right?
Not a problem.
Busted ribs. Busted back (transverse process). Not a problem.
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Add the fourth quarter to the list too.
Tony Romo was so good last season that he made people forget he was even on the injury list!
The 35-year-old scored 34 touchdown passes to just nine interceptions. He was within one game of throwing 4,000 passing yards (Romo played in 15 games), ending the season with 3,705 yards.
Romo led the league in quarterback rating (113.2), QBR (82.8), completion percentage (69.9%), and pass yards per attempt (8.5).
Contrary to the “choker” narrative that follows the polarizing quarterback, Romo was at his best in the fourth quarter. Romo not only shined when the lights were brightest, he slammed on the gas pedal while critics were hoping to film an accident.
In the fourth quarter alone, Romo scored a 100.1 quarterback rating, throwing seven touchdowns to three interceptions, and completed nearly 70 percent of his passes.
But Romo was more clutch in the fourth quarter when the game was within seven points.
With the game in swing mode, the six-foot-two, Wisconsin native upped his quarterback rating to 120.7. He tossed five touchdowns to just one interception, completing 39 out of 52 passes, with a completion percentage of 75.0.
His completion percentage of 75.0 was his best in any quarter, and his quarterback rating of 120.7 was only outdone by his work in the third period (138.4).
To sum this up: Tony Romo loves the fourth quarter, especially when the game is within seven points.
Of course, adding a strong and healthy offensive line to the mix helps. Adding La’el Collins and rookie third rounder Chaz Green to the mix should allow Romo to dance a little more in the backfield, not to mention lengthen his career.
But don’t forget former running back DeMarco Murray‘s contributions either. Murray carried the ball nearly 400 times, setting a franchise record of 392 carries. He finished the season with 1,845 yards, 13 rushing scores, and averaged nearly five yards a pop.
In addition to blocking duties (something he didn’t get enough credit for), Murray was targeted for 64 passes, catching 57 of them. To compare, Romo targeted his running back more than wide receivers Cole Beasely (49), and Dwayne Harris (12).
Murray tied with Terrance Williams, each with 64 pass targets.
Murray was Romo’s outlet and another weapon to the passing dimension, averaging 7.3 yards per catch and 416 yards.
Murray touched the ball 449 touches if you combine his receiving and rushing touches.
So the discussion begs this question: Can Romo sustain his fourth quarter success without Murray?
To answer the question, the lens must refocus. The real question here is who is replaceable. Hint: It’s not the quarterback.
Murray leaves the Cowboys without five significant starters in Tyron Smith, Ronald Leary, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, and Doug Free. He also leaves a team with an elite quarterback for one with consistent injuries and an unproven starter in Sam Bradford.
For Dallas, it’s possible to plug-in another running back to this system — it is not possible to plug-in a new quarterback and expect the wheel to roll the same.
Romo has had success in the fourth quarter without Murray before. And now he has an offensive line ready to hit its peak.
So the question is can DeMarco Murray have fourth quarter success without Tony Romo?