Over the next week, Tony Romo's play in the second half of the Lions game will be dissected and espoused upon numerous times. It will happen in all the sports media and it will happen here on BTB. Everybody will have an opinion, and undoubtedly they will vary. Even among the front-page writers, we are not united in our view of what happened on Sunday.
So I decided to plant my flag unequivocally. I've probably already done that somewhat in my previous posts, but I'll make it final here.
I watched that game yesterday and came to the conclusion that Romo has to take the blame. (I know, not exactly going out on a limb). The only way the Lions were ever going to get back into that game was through turnovers, if Romo just drives the bus for rest of that game after the 27-3 lead, we can't lose. So the turnovers are the thing.
There are other points to bring up for discussion about the loss. The defense that had played so well struggled at the end. The injury to Gerald Sensabaugh probably had something to do with that. Jason Garrett has to be questioned for some of the aggressive play-calling with a big lead. He put Romo in those situations to throw the interceptions. Running on first down isn't the worst thing you can do with a lead. And yes, having two picks going back for six points each is kind of flukey, but you have to throw the pick first before they can take it to the house. I mean, I'm not counting on the offense to make a tackle.
All of that and more contributed - and are worthy subjects of examination and discussion - but none of that would have become an issue if we don't turn the ball over.
So to me, it comes down to Romo, and how much he is to blame for the picks.
I think in general most would agree the first interception was on Romo. He just didn't read the linebacker underneath and threw it to him, and the play was covered tightly by the cornerback anyway. Romo explains that Bobby Carpenter made a good play, which he did, but even if hadn't the corner was all over Dez Bryant. That was a poor decision.
The second interception probably has a few culprits. One, Robinson wasn't physical enough in getting across the defender, Chris Houston. His pattern was a little lazy once he was legally bumped in the five yard area. Two, even though this is a timing offense and it was a quick throw, Romo has to recognize where the defender is in relation to the receiver and make a choice. No one throws blindly in an NFL offense, a timing offense just means you see the defender and determine if he'll be where the receiver is going, and then determine if you'll throw it. In this case, it can be argued that Romo should have seen that Houston jumped the route. But, probably more than anything, it was just a really great play by Houston, he guessed right on the route and made the play.
The third one is the one that really stands out. With just over four minutes left in the game, with the ball at your own 20-yard line - and the lead - as a QB you have to be thinking the one thing you can't do is throw an interception. Incompletions, sacks, penalties; anything is preferable to turning the ball over. That's what you have to be thinking.
And given it was first down, there's no reason at all to take a chance. Instead, Romo throws one over the middle of the field from his back heels without following through properly. There's just so many things wrong with that idea given the context of the game at that moment. He had pressure up the middle but he knew it was there, he was backing up as he was seeing it. No matter how good the pattern looks to Witten, he knew that he was going to be risking a mechanically-flawed throw. Right there, he should have known not to do it, especially in the middle of the field. He had options.
One option was to slide to the left; when he throws that ball there's still a good yard between him and the pressure, he still had time. Two, and this is the BEST option of them all, he had Felix Jones open on a checkdown to one side, and a tight end open on a checkdown to the other side. It's first down, make the smart throw. But he didn't do that. He went with the high-risk/high-reward option and got burned. This is where I have a problem. Sure, we want a competitive quarterback who thinks he can make plays. But we also want a quarterback who makes the smart play. In that situation, Romo made the very definition of an un-smart play.
So here I am lambasting Tony Romo. And the weird thing is I still think he'll lead us to good things this year. But that doesn't mean I can't call him out for his blunders on Sunday. And in my mind, blunders they were.
I can still like Tony Romo as my quarterback, and hate what he did on Sunday.