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Tony Romo: A Case Study of an Elite NFL QB


As mentioned in a previous post (you can see it here) today that assessed whether Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo was an elite NFL quarterback, Romo had a phenomenal game against the St. Louis Rams. Despite problems with the O-line and injuries to his best receivers, Romo once again demonstrated that he is indeed an elite QB.

While watching the game tape of the Cowboys, I took notes on every single offensive play. I numbered each play, and circled all of the passing plays for easy access later. Here is breakdown on every passing play Tony Romo was involved in.

First Possession. After opening kickoff, Cowboys begin their drive on their own 24 yardline.

Play 1. As Romo starts to drop back, DE Chris Long goes right by RT Doug Free on the inside, forcing Tony to check down to Demarco Murray right before  Long hits him.  Pass was complete to RB DeMarco Murray for 6 yards.

Play 3. As Romo starts to drop back, DE Robert Quinn beats Tyron Smith to the edge and is headed right for Tony, who alertly throws the ball away, but avoids taking a penalty. The incomplete sets up 2nd and 10.

Play 5. On 3rd and 9 from their own 31, Romo has time to survey the left side of the field, but then steps up in the pocket, finds TE John Phillips running a ‘drag’ route on the left side, and fires the pass to Phillips for the 1st down.

Play 6. On 1st and 10 from their own 41, Cowboys go with a 3 WR set (Dwayne Harris wide left, Cole Beasley in the slot on left, Kevin Ogletree wide right). Romo avoids pressure from DT Michael Brockers, pump fakes to the right, and then drops a pass over the CB and under the safety to Ogletree on a ‘fly’ pattern down the the right sideline for 25 yards and the 1st down.

This was Romo’s 4th passing attempt and he has already dealt with pressure from around both ends and up the middle.

Play 7. On 1st and 10 at the Rams 35, Rams rush 8 players at Romo; under pressure, Romo throws a strike to TE John Phillips on a ‘seam’ route (who did a nice job of seeing the blitz and looking for the ball quickly), but a hard tackle jarred the ball loose. The play was initially ruled a catch but was overturned on review. Pass was incomplete, resulted in 2nd and 10.

Play 9. On 3rd and 10, the Rams send only 4 pass-rushers. Romo is in the shotgun with 3 WR’s and 1 RB. As Romo starts to drop back, LT Tyron Smith actually blocks no one, which leaves John Phillips one-on-one with the DE Robert Quinn. Quinn easily blows by Phillips, and starts to come after Romo from the left. At the same time, Brockers breaks through the interior and comes at Romo from the right. In classic Romo style, he uses a nice spin move to evade them both and vacate the pocket, then he evades a third rusher and makes a beautiful pass on the run to Murray across the field in the flat. for the 1st down.  Murray makes three defenders miss and fights for enough yards to secure a 1st down.

Play 10. On 1st and 10 from the Rams 24, Romo is in the shotgun with 3 WR’s, a DB blitzes from the left, no one is there to pick him up, Romo forces the pass to Murray in the flat, but he overthrows him.

Play 11: On second and 10, Romo is in the shotgun with 3 WR’s, Smith is beat once again to the edge by Quinn, Romos’ quick release to Phillips over the middle prevents him from getting blasted in the back by the charging Quinn. An offensive pass interference  penalty is called, the completion to Phillips is called back.

Play 12. On 2nd and 20, Romo, still in the shotgun, is under pressure immediately as he starts to drop back, Smith is beat by a spin move and there is also pressure coming up the middle (Rams only rushed four defenders). Romo anticipates the pressure and quickly makes a nice pass to Jones in the flat who scampers for a 14 yard gain.

Play 13. On 3rd and 6 from the Rams 14, it looks like Ogletree ran the wrong route, Romo was expecting him to come back, but he let the defender get between him and Romo by staying on course instead of coming back for the throw.  Romo still managed to hit Ogletree in the hands, but he couldn’t hang on to it.

Ogletree’s drop led to a successful FG by Dan Bailey.

Second Possesion. After a St. Louis punt, the Cowboys take over, 1st and 10, at their own 22.

Play 16. On 1st and 10 from their own 36, Romo is under center and has two WR’s split out to his right; Dwayne Harris is in the slot. Romo finally has a nice pocket and time to wait for the play to develop, sees Harris open for the deep ball in the middle, “TOUCHDOWN!”

Third Possession. After a St.Louis kickoff, the Cowboys start at their own 11 yard line.

Play 18. On 2nd and 6 from the Cowboys 16, Romo is under center; he has 2 WRs out wide (Ogletree on the left and someone other than Harris out to the right), TE James Hanna in the slot to his right and a single RB in the backfield. Romo quickly hits Ogletree on an 8-yard ‘button-hook’ who then breaks a tackle and runs for an additional 8 yards.  Gain of 15.

Play 20. On 2nd and 5 from the Cowboys 36, Romo is in the shotgun, he has Cole Beasley (slot) and Andre Holmes lined up on the right, Harris lined up very close to the OT on the left, and a single RB. Romo drops back, Beasley does an excellent job of being patient and then finding the soft spot between 3 defenders. Romo hits Beasley on the run, and Beasley takes a 5 yard crossing route for a 19 yard gain. Great read and play by both of them.

Play 22. On 2nd and 3 from the Rams 38, Romo is under center with a single back, and they have 2 WR’s (Ogletree left and Harris right) both lined up fairly close to the TE/OL, i,e, neither WR was split out very wide. Once again Romo has a nice pocket and time to scan the field, he sees Harris open again and throws the deep ball.  Harris makes a great catch in stride, then does a great job of splitting two defenders and taking it in for the “TOUCHDOWN!”

If you took the time to count, there were 13 passing plays. On 7 of them, Romo was under immediate pressure. If not for his incredible escape ability, excellent awareness, ability to make fast reads, and his quick release, he would have been hit a lot more than once in that game.

The point I have always tried to make, is the Tom Bradys’ and Mannings’ of this league, could never perform under those types of circumstances. To think that Romo was in this game, with poor blocking,(LT Tyron Smith Got Abused all day by a young player. What will he do against the Jared Allens of the league?), rookie wide receivers (with the exception of Ogletree), an inexperienced #2 tight end, and yet he still managed to finish the day completing 9 of 13 passes, (69.2%) for 198 yards (15.2 average) 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions and 0 sacks for a passer rating of 151.4.  His performance was amazing to say the least. At 198 yards in 1 quarter, Romo was on pace for an 800 yard game and an NFL record.

The Romo Haters and the media alike can say what they want. At the end of the day, Dallas Cowboy QB Tony Romo is a “Gifted Individual in the NFL”. The facts speak for themselves, his career statistics and the game against St. Louis prove that he is an “elite” QB.

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