Tony Romo deserves his share of blame for Cowboys’ ‘worst loss ever’

Posted Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Who deserves most blame for the Cowboys' loss to the Packers?

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galloway The easy answer is this:

Fire everybody. Now.

But since there’s nobody to jettison Jerry Jones, that allows his butt to wiggle off the hook. For nearly two decades, Jerry has done no time for his multiple football crimes.

Speaking, however, of blame:

Honk if you are guilty of having overrated Mr. Jones’ current maggot-mess of a football club.

Personally, I’m leaning on the horn based on a seasonlong assessment that the Cowboys were the epitome of NFL mediocrity.

The month of December, however, has totally exposed the fallacy of that theory.

Mediocrity would be a pronounced upgrade. Instead, this is simply a decaying club, which between Chicago last Monday night and here at the Big Yard on Sunday afternoon is rotting from the head down. Jerry’s head.

But let’s not waste time here. We need to get right to Tony.

Green Bay’s second half offensive tsunami swept the Cowboys into the history pages for dubious franchise deeds with a 37-36 win column rescue by the Packers, drawing the obvious question of “worst loss ever?”

The answer is yes. Simply because it was the latest loss that defied logic.

But at his going financial rate of $108 million, Tony Romo was outplayed for the second game in six days by a backup quarterback. This time, Matt Flynn. Last week, Josh McCown.

In Romo’s defense, he isn’t facing the depleted Cowboys’ defense, which even outdid itself in incompetence by giving up five straight touchdown drives in Sunday’s second half as Green Bay rallied from a 26-3 intermission deficit.

Then again, it’s not like the Packers, or the Bears last week, don’t have some serious defensive problems of their own.

But Romo throwing interceptions on the Cowboys’ last two possessions, one pick while attempting to milk a five-point lead, the other while attempting to get into field-goal position for the trusty foot of Dan Bailey, is the way this loss closed out.

The last pick was not Romo’s fault. Young receiver Cole Beasley simply cut off a sideline route.

The other one? Good grief, Tony.

If you were screaming for play-calling that heavily involved the legs of DeMarco Murray (you know, attempting to milk the clock), well, Jason Garrett was in agreement. So was play-caller Bill Callahan.

But Romo, based on Mr. Jones’ fine print in Tony’s new contract, has sweeping freedom to make at-the-line changes. On a second and 6 from the Dallas 35, a change happened.

“It was a run call that [Romo] threw the ball on,” Garrett said.

“They overloaded the side we were going to run the ball to,” Romo agreed. “I ended up throwing the ball to the man who was one-on-one. It was my fault for obviously putting the ball in a position where the defense could make a play.”

Romo dodged a defender who came loose on the play, but then his pass was a tad behind Miles Austin. Such a game-changing opportunity did not elude cornerback Sam Shields.

But so much of the second half came down to the Cowboys not using the run game enough, particularly since it was effective all afternoon.

Then again, when the game became a shootout, the emphasis was on the Cowboys putting up points. “It’s easy to look back now and say, ‘Run the ball, run the ball,’ but at the same time, if they are going to have numbers [the Packers stacking the defensive box], it’s a tough situation,” Romo said.

“What I have to do is a better job of protecting the ball, and I didn’t do a good enough job of that. I will next time.”

Of course, the “next times” are seemingly more meaningless with each passing December week, even though the NFC East remained up for grabs with a Philly loss on Sunday.

But there were two other major problems involving Romo in this loss.

Start with Bailey being perfectly successful. “That was good and bad,” Garrett said. “We gave [Bailey] too many opportunities.”

Bailey kicked five field goals, two from 50 yards. But that was 20 points the offense didn’t convert with touchdowns.

And then there was Romo and the deep ball.

An unofficial count had him missing five times with receivers behind defenders on throws of 25 yards or more. Four were with Dez on three underthrows and one overthrow, although one of those was caught.

Except Dez stumbled out of bounds after the catch because Romo didn’t lead him with a down-the-field throw that might have gone for six.

The other underthrow on a deep route was a miss of Jason Witten.

What the heck has happened to Romo on the deep ball?

Tony: “I think the worst thing you can do with Dez sometimes is overthrow him. He goes up and gets it. But I look back and I wish I had one or two where I gave it a little bit more.”

Offensive survival in the NFL basically comes down to getting a receiver behind defenders in the open field, and the quarterback hits him in stride.

Lately, getting that accomplished has been a surprising Romo problem. On Sunday, it was an epidemic of missed deep ball chances.

The Cowboys have come apart and fallen apart defensively. No relief can be expected.

But that puts the emphasis on the offense being better. That emphasis starts with Romo, be it in changing plays at the line of scrimmage, making better decisions with the ball and certainly in hitting receivers who are open deep.

In many ways, Romo had a productive game on Sunday. In other ways, however, he was also a factor in the Cowboys continuing a December rot from the head down.

Randy Galloway, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @sportsdfw

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