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Romo the Roach: Tony's Extra-sensory Skills Could Decide the Steelers Game

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Many insects have cerci, a pair of antenna-like appendages that extend from their lower bodies.  Roaches use them like a second set of eyes;  the cerci can detect minute changes in air currents, like those caused by human boots slamming towards them.  The roach can gauge the direction of the gust and quickly dash in the opposite direction.  It's why they're so hard to kill, even when one manages to sneak up behind them.

NFL defensive linemen probably feel that Tony Romo is part roach, with cerci extending from his shoulder blades.  Though the Cowboys have had an injury-prone offensive line this year, that has broken down far more often than his lines from '06 and '07, Romo has only been bagged eight times in his nine starts.  He has an uncanny ability to sense backslide pressure and slide away from it.

That extra-sensory skill could be the deciding factor in Sunday's Cowboys-Steelers game.  The teams boast the two best rushes in the game.  Pittsburgh tops the sack charts with 42 while Dallas has 40.  Both run base 3-4 schemes.  Both have exceptional pass rushing outside linebackers.  Both make extensive use of 2-4-5 "Chaos" packages, where two down linemen are backed by a quartet of linebackers who float up and down the line of scrimmage before setting their rush lames just prior to the snap.

In short, both teams look to put extreme pressure on the opposing QB.  The game will likely be won by the team which can better protect its signal caller.  The numbers strongly suggest that team will be Dallas:

Sacks allowed

  • PIttsburgh -- 36,  3.0 per game;
  • Dallas -- 18,  1.5 per game;

Sacks taken by Starting QB:

  • Ben Roethlisberger -- 12 starts, 33 sacks, 2.75/game;
  • Tony Romo -- 9 starts, 8 sacks,  0.89/game;

Roethlisberger has been sacked three times as often as Romo this year.  To give you some context, Brad Johnson was sacked 8 times in his three Cowboys starts, a 2.67/game rate. (Brooks Bollinger has the other two, from his Giants-game cameo.)

Brad Johnson was a slightly more slippery target than Ben Roethlisberger.  Now, that's a bit of a cheap shot:  Roethisberger is a far more able QB, with an infinitely stronger arm than Johnson.  But when it comes to mobility and elusiveness, they're the same guy.

Nor can Roethlisberger claim to be a better football custodian than Romo.  He has 15 total turnovers -- 12 picks and 3 lost fumbles, a 1.25/game turnover rate.  Romo has eight picks and four lost fumbles, for a 1.33/game rate.  We Cowboys fans get on him for his bobbles, but he's no worse than his rival this week.

All other rush conditions being about the same, Romo's slippery-ness could buy him the time for those one or two game-changing, big plays.  The Steelers rush is excellent, but they're chasing a cockroach this weekend.  The Cowboys blitzers are chasing Bernie Kosar's son.