Fear of Romo is a game changer for Cowboys

09/28/2013 3:45 PM

11/12/2014 3:03 PM

A city famous for its seaside beaches also happens to be a logical next-game locale for the Dallas Cowboys. Prior to a Sunday afternoon of football action, it’s a team that arrived on the West Coast riding an A-frame wave (surfer talk) of peace, love and hugs.

A lot of good stuff happened in last week’s blowout of the St. Louis Rams. The critics and the doubters went underground.

But each Sunday, of course, is a new NFL world.

Maybe you’ve noticed. Peace, love and hugs can quickly become hell, fire and damnation.

Next up: The Chargers, a 1-2 team that is exactly 17 seconds away from being 3-0. But also a team that apparently has a blueprint for being 2-2 by late afternoon on Sunday.

How?

The Chargers are banking on the Tony Romo theory.

“We know that once he’s rattled and whatnot, it’s easy to take him out of the game,” defensive end Corey Liuget told the San Diego newspaper last week.

Poor Tony.

Well, not exactly poor. He’s rich Tony. But even with all of Jerry’s new money, and even coming off a good game last week, Romo still receives the zingers. And in some cases, the zingers are deserved.

But I would have hoped that this Cory Liuget, being a defensive player and all, would have noticed the Cowboys aren’t about Tony anymore.

Man, it’s a running team.

So sayeth all after the DeMarco Murray/offensive-line ground game bonanza against the Rams.

It’s funny about Tony. He’s at a point in his quarterbacking career, with so many failures woven around a multitude of splendid games, that the lightning rod hangs off his chin each Sunday.

That’s not unfair. That’s just the way it is.

But even when the DFW media was in a good-news mode after the Rams game, Tony still became a lightning rod despite a very good and solid performance.

The key storyline around the Rams win, and again this past week, was the verbal blast Cowboys defensive tackle Jason Hatcher reportedly gave the team in a practice session after the bad loss to the Chiefs a week earlier.

Hatcher, it was reported by the NFL Network, made a point of calling out Romo in front of teammates. Immense denials have followed, including from Hatcher. He did give a fiery speech, but there was no calling out of Romo, or so everyone with the team now says.

Personally, I thought it was a good thing. Hatcher is a respected player, who is playing extremely well, and certainly has no agendas involved (see Eldorado Owens a few years back).

Romo is not above a good call-out.

On the other hand, Tony did not receive enough credit for the success of the running game against the Rams.

Why did Murray suddenly explode for all those yards? And why did play-calling Bill Callahan suddenly fall in love with the run game after a couple of weeks of having it low priority.

Because of Romo, that’s why. Or really, because of Jeff Fisher, highly regarded defensive mastermind/head coach of St. Louis.

Fisher went into the game last week with this plan:

Romo will not beat us. That also meant Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Miles Austin, etc. will not beat us.

The Rams inserted a fifth defensive back and started the game, and went the first half, playing basically a six-man front. Fisher had such low respect for the Cowboys’ offensive line, he didn’t think his defense could be run-damaged even with just six in the box.

Wrong.

Then when Fisher had to switch back at halftime, going with seven men up front, Romo put the bite on him with two touchdown passes.

With no credit, Romo was directly involved in how well the run game performed in that win. Jeff Fisher feared him.

By the way, not all of the comments coming out of the Chargers’ camp last week were Romo negative.

As Kevin Acee, the beat man for the San Diego newspaper, wrote:

“The Chargers have noticed a dumbed-down Cowboys offense and a spruced-up Tony Romo.”

Linebacker Donald Butler had this comment on Romo:

“He’s been a lot more protective with the football and making good decisions.”

The Chargers — again, just 17 seconds away from being 3-0 — have had defensive issues this season, particularly when it comes to being thrown on. League rankings are a little sketchy this early in a season, but it should be noted San Diego is the worst in the NFL giving up passing yardage and among the best at run stoppage.

More from Mr. Liuget, as quoted in the San Diego newspaper:

“It’s a simple offense. They don’t do too many plays. The key is to definitely hit Romo early and try to take him out of the game and put the ball in Murray’s hands.”

Hmmm. Sounds like an invitation to run once again. And a fear of Romo and his receivers again.

Can’t wait to see how all this works out.

Randy Galloway can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on Galloway & Co. on ESPN/103.3 FM.

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