The Cowboys' O Line: Who'll Stop the Rain?

A tip o' the hat to blogger Kansas, who produced the core stats for this story in one of today's threads.

Tony Romo gets the attention, as all big-name QBs do, when his team does well and when it performs poorly.  He's received a lot of attention for his December swoons, but a poster today pointed out that Romo has extreme performance splits in his four career starts versus the Eagles.

Romo has either been super-human or insufferable:

2006

  • Loss, 7-23, 45.4 rating; 3 sacks, 2 Ints.

2007

  • Win, 38-24, 141.7 rating, 0 sacks, 1 Int.
  • Loss, 6-10, 22.2 rating, 4 sacks, 3 Ints.

2008

  • Win, 41-37, 123.2 rating, 0 sacks, 1 Int.
  • ???

I want to point out the relationship between Romo's protection and his performance.  In Dallas' two wins, Romo was not sacked.  In their two losses, Jim Johnson's guys bagged Romo seven times.

 

This concerns me because the offensive line's protection has broken down this month, and it is as big a reason for the team's current 1-2 December run as any other factor. 

Romo was sacked more than once in a game twice in his first nine starts.  The Packers got him three times in Dallas' 27-16 win and the Cardinals dropped him three times in their 26-20 overtime win.  Arizona's rushers hit Romo numerous other times and broke his finger on Dallas final drive of the day.

That day aside, Dallas' pass protection was pretty good.  Romo was sacked just 8 times in his first nine starts.  He was sacked just once during the three game winning streak after the bye.

But the line's performance has dropped since the Pittsburgh game.  Romo has been sacked 9 times in his last three starts:

  • Pittsburgh:  3 sacks, 13-20 loss;
  • New York:  4 sacks, 20-8 win;
  • Baltimore: 2 sacks, 24-33 loss

The sack line from Saturday night doesn't tell the full story.  Romo was at his evasive best to avoid a handful more of sacks, as Rex Ryan's front seven completely flummoxed Hudson Houck's guys. 

The offensive line may be reprising its '05 December meltdown, when it collapsed after Flozell Adams tore an ACL and Marco Rivera's back gave out.  Look at Romo's four Eagles results and look at the relationship between pass protection and Dallas' December play.  When Romo has time to throw, Dallas wins.  When he doesn't, they lose.

I'm putting the over/under at two:  if the o-line can limit Philly to two or fewer sacks, the Cowboys will pack their bags for the playoffs.  If the Eagles' rushers get Romo three or more times, the Cowboys will be packing their golf bags for Monday tee times.

 

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