For Romo, What Will Be the Last Straw?

Another Monday blog post about Tony Romo, along with more reminders of bad times in this franchise’s history.

Don Meredith helped to lead the Cowboys to prominence, including back-to-back appearances in the NFL Championship Game. In 1968, he helped to lead the Cowboys to a 12-2 mark.

But against Cleveland in the playoffs, the Cowboys’ hunt for an NFL title ended. The game was tied 10-10 at the half, but Meredith couldn’t avoid mistakes. He misfired on a sideline pass to Bob Hayes, and Cleveland linebacker Dale Lindsey picked off the pass and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown.

On the next possession, Meredith tried to hit Lance Rentzel, but the ball bounced off the receiver’s hands and into the hands of Ben Davis. Leroy Kelly scored on a 35-yard run, and Dallas trailed 24-10. Meredith’s stats: 3 of 9, 42 yards, 0 TD, 3 Int.

Meredith’s career effectively ended right there. He did not play for the rest of the game against the Browns, and though he played in the first half of the infamous Playoff Bowl one week later, he retired after the season.

Danny White famously led the Cowboys to three consecutive NFC Championship Games (but infamously lost all three of them). He was the starter in 1985 when the Cowboys made the playoffs for the last time under Tom Landry.

But he broke his wrist in 1986, and his comeback in 1987 was not impressive. Dallas had a 5-5 record when the team hosted Minnesota on Thanksgiving Day with an outside chance of making the playoffs. In a wild game, Dallas twice overcame deficits of 14 points to send the game into overtime. The Cowboys had a shot to get into field-goal range in the extra period, but White’s final pass of the game was a wounded duck that found its way to Minnesota LB Scott Studwell. The Vikings scored on the next drive after the interception.

White never won another game as a starter, losing his last start against Washington later in the season. He served as a backup in 1988 but never played again after suffering a knee injury against Chicago.

Drew Bledsoe only played two seasons in Dallas, but he had previously led the Patriots to the Super Bowl and was supposed to be a solid quarterback when he came to Dallas. But in less than two full seasons, Bledsoe was no better than mediocre and had a 12-10 record as the Dallas starter. He had some feel-good moments, including a solid performance in a 34-6 win over in-state rival Houston during week 6 of the 2006 season.

But in week 7 in 2006, the Cowboys fell behind to the New York Giants. The Cowboys scored to New York lead to 12-7, and when Dallas recovered a fumble in Giant territory, the Cowboys had a chance to take a lead going into halftime. Near the goal line, Bledsoe tried to force the ball to Terry Glenn, but Sam Madison stepped in front of it to make the interception, ending the Dallas drive.

Bledsoe never threw another pass as a pro. His mistakes had cost the team games before, and the pass to Glenn was the last straw. Dallas coach Bill Parcells pulled Bledsoe and put in backup Tony Romo.

We were supposed to think that the legend was born at that point, but legendary isn’t the term that will describe Romo’s career.

Romo was 19-7 during his first year and a half as the starter. Since that time, he is only 22-17. He’s had some big wins in September and other big wins in November. And he was good during a late run in 2009, leading the team to its only playoff win in 15 years.

Otherwise, his blunders are becoming worse than the worst anyone ever saw by the likes of Meredith, White, or Bledsoe (or, for that matter, Quincy Carter, Ryan Leaf, or Clint Stoerner). Romo has had to take the blame for more and more losses in the past three seasons, and it’s getting hard to believe Team Jerry won’t decide that enough is enough.

The loss to the Lions wasn’t just about Romo trying to make a play in a tight game. He was reckless at a time where any quarterback at any level would have known he just needed to play it safe. He’s 31 years old and has started 65 professional football games. He has very clearly not learned anything from his past mistakes, and we should have absolutely no confidence that he’ll learn anything from the most recent catastrophe.

Of course, Jerry says no change will take place, and Jason Garrett and the rest of the team have pledged their support. Perhaps the rest of us can pledge to accept mediocrity.

Detroit 34, Dallas 30: Romo Trades in His Hero Status, Possibly for Good

Holding a 27-3 lead at the time, Tony Romo explains his strategy for keeping the Lions undefeated. Ready…Break!

Tony Romo’s performance in two consecutive games while playing with injuries helped most forget the dreadful performance at the end of the week 1 loss to the Jets.

What Romo did against the Lions will also make us forget the Jets game because this one was so much worse. The Cowboys entrusted Romo to take care of a 27-3 lead, and he promptly threw two interceptions that the Lions returned for scores to cut the Dallas lead to 27-17.

Yes, it’s true that Romo played a big role in the team getting the lead, but what he did in throwing those picks erased any good will he earned from such a good first half. In fact, it’s going to be tough for even the most positive of fans to have faith in Romo again.

Dallas had the big lead thanks to a great first half. Gerald Sensabaugh, who later left the game with an injury, picked off a pass on Detroit’s opening drive. Dallas moved the ball easily from that point, and Romo’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant along the right sideline gave the Cowboys a 7-0 lead.

Dallas had a chance to go up even further after driving to the Detroit 1. But on fourth down, Felix Jones was stuffed as the Lions shut the drive down.

The Cowboys didn’t fold at that point, though. Early in the second quarter, Romo drove inside the 10 once again thanks to Romo’s 44-yard pass to Laurent Robinson. Romo hit Bryant again, increasing the lead to 14-0.

Dan Bailey kicked two field goals from there, giving Dallas a 20-3 lead.

The Cowboys got great field position to open the second half when defensive lineman Sean Lissemore returned a short kickoff into Detroit territory. Six plays later, Romo found Jason Witten in the back of the end zone, giving Dallas a 27-3 lead.

The Dallas defense made a stop, giving the ball back to the Cowboys’ offense.

Dear Jason Garrett: Your team is leading by 24 with 10:30 left in the third quarter. The last thing you need is for Romo to try to force a pass to someone. Got it?

On first down, Romo tried to force a pass into double coverage. Bobby Carpenter (yes, that Bobby Carpenter) picked off the pass and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown.

Dallas 27, Detroit 10.

Dallas controlled the ball on the next drive, mixing runs with short passes. Then Romo tried to thread the needle and hit Robinson on a slant. Chris Houston stepped in front of the ball at the Detroit 44 and ran down the right sideline for yet another touchdown.

Dallas 27, Detroit 17.

The Cowboys drove on the next drive for a field goal to increase the lead to 13, but the Lions still had all the momentum. The 13-point lead only lasted about 80 seconds into the fourth quarter. Matthew Stafford’s touchdown to Calvin Johnson cut the Dallas lead to 30-24.

Dear Tony Romo: You put your team into this mess, so it would be nice for you to lead a drive that would get the team out of this mess. Got it?

Ahem.

Dallas went three-and-out twice in a row. The Dallas defense held once, but on a later drive by the Lions, Jason Hanson nailed a 51-yard field goal to cut the Dallas lead to 30-27.

When nobody expects much from Romo, he can be a hero. When he absolutely has to be a hero, he…

…throws the ball off his back foot. Witten might have been open over the middle, but linebacker Stephen Tulloch was in position to pick off the underthrown pass.

The Dallas defense slowed the Lions, but at that point, it was just a matter of time. Frank Walker was called for holding on a third-down play in the end zone, giving the Lions and first and goal from the 2. Dallas had Terence Newman line up in single coverage on Johnson, and it wasn’t a contest.

Dallas had a chance to get into position to throw a couple of passes into the end zone, but the team couldn’t even get that far.

Simulations Narrowly Favor Lions Over Cowboys

Calvin Johnson was a headache to the Cowboys in most simulations.

All of the simulations featured each week have predicted that the Lions will narrowly defeat the Cowboys at noon on Sunday. According to these simulations, the Cowboys will be able to keep the Lions’ rushing game in check but will have trouble stopping Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and the rest of the Detroit passing game.

AccuScore: Detroit 25.1, Dallas 24.9

The AccuScore predictions resulted in a Dallas win 51% of the time, but the average score favored the Lions by a couple hundredths of a point.

AccuScore is forecasting a close game with the Detroit Lions winning 49% of simulations, and the Dallas Cowboys 51% of simulations. In close games, turnover margin is especially important. The Detroit Lions commit fewer turnovers in 57% of simulations and they go on to win 64% when they take care of the ball. The Dallas Cowboys wins 71% of the simulations in which they commit fewer turnovers. Matthew Stafford is averaging 261 passing yards per sim. If he can have a great game with better than average passing yards and at least a 2 to 1 TD to INT ratio (37% chance) then he helps his team win 58%. Felix Jones is averaging 61 rushing yards per sim. If he can have a great game with better than average rushing yards and at least a 1 rushing TD (22% chance) then he helps his team win 69%.

What If Sports: Detroit 19, Dallas 18

The Lions-Cowboys game was selected as the game of the week, as Detroit won 51.7% of the games.

For the Lions, a vaunted passing attack has masked the severe limitations of their running game. While he’s hauled in 15 receptions for 182 yards and a score in the early-going, Jahvid Best has been unable to do much damage in the ground game, with a meager 2.9 average on 49 carries. If Detroit plans on concocting any postseason itinerary, this deficiency will need to be alleviated ASAP. Stafford has been impressive in spreading the pigskin around to Johnson, Best, Nate Burleson and Brandon Pettigrew, but without a dynamic offensive attack, the Lions will be unable to take the next step.

The Cowboys can relate to Detroit’s concern. Felix Jones had a breakout game against the Redskins, but the lack of an adequate backup has translated into a measly 78 yards per game in the rushing attack, which ranks 27th in the league. With Romo not at 100 percent, Dallas will need to lean on their backfield for the next few weeks.

So who wins this clash of NFC conference upstarts? According to the WhatIfSports.com award-winning simulation engine, the Lions come out on top 52.3 percent of the time by an average margin of 20-19.

Madden: Detroit 27, Dallas 24

In ESPN’s Madden simulation, Detroit came from behind to beat the Cowboys.

When the NFL schedule was first released, few were pointing to the Lions-Cowboys game as a marquee match-up. Oh what a difference three weeks can make, as this is the most anticipated game of the week for many, and according to the sim, it doesn’t disappoint. Trailing 24-20 with under two minutes left on the clock, Matthew Stafford drives the Lions downfield, then delivers a 37-yard touchdown with only 1:16 left on the clock to give Detroit the 27-24 victory.

Tecmo Super Bowl 2012: Detroit 20, Dallas 14

Ugly game for the Cowboys in Tecmo Super Bowl 2012. Dallas turned the ball over twice in the red zone but still held a 14-7 late in the game. However, Detroit tied the game at 14 before winning in overtime.

Friday Fun: Remembering 1994 Throwback Uniforms

The NFL celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1994, and as part of the celebration, teams wore throwback uniforms. While these uniforms are generally common today, they weren’t at the time. Teams rarely even had alternative jerseys in those days, so seeing the various teams in replicas of old uniforms was something of a treat.

Dallas unveiled its first throwback uniform on Monday Night Football on September 19, 1994 against the Lions. Below is a clip of that game, which the Cowboys lost in overtime thanks to a Troy Aikman fumble on a snap. The clip is worth watching mostly because of Jerry Jones’ reaction (@ 5:40) to the game-winning field goal.

This was a pretty faithful replica of the jerseys worn from 1960 to 1963. Dallas wore its silver helmets in the game, the players had their numbers across their backs, and the team did not have the same royal blue color as the original. Another side note about the original jerseys is that Dallas did not wear white at home until after the team adopted the silver helmets and silver pants starting in 1964.

Here are the originals—

Original jerseys from 1960.

 

A graphic of the uniform worn from 1960 to 1963.

After the Cowboys’ 20-17 loss to the Lions, the team put the genuine throwbacks away. On Thanksgiving, Dallas unveiled a new double-star uniform that looked nothing like the genuine throwbacks.

The second version of the “throwback” in 1994.

* * *

Yes, the video shows the same Jason Hanson who kicks for the Lions today. He is now in his 20th season, and though he missed half of last year, he’s come back at a perfect eight for eight.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys seem to have found a kicker in Dan Bailey, but who knows how long he will last. For comparison purposes, consider how many kickers the Cowboys have had to use since Hanson first earned the Lions’ job in 1992.

Lin Elliott

Eddie Murray (a former Lion himself)

Chris Boniol

Richie Cunningham

Eddie Murray (same one)

Tim Seder

Jon Hilbert

Tim Seder

Billy Cundiff

Shaun Suisham

Jose Cortez

Shaun Suisham

Billy Cundiff

Mike Vanderjagt

Martin Gramatica

Nick Folk

Shaun Suisham

David Buehler

Dan Bailey

Cowboys Jump in the Power Rankings but Face a Higher-Ranked Lions Team

In each of the three polls reviewed here, the Cowboys moved up a spot or two. However, Dallas faces a Detroit team that some have ranked as high as #2. Dallas hasn’t been that high since the days of the Triplets.

ESPN: #11 

The Cowboys jumped from #13 to #11 in the ESPN poll, which has the Lions ranked at #4.

Dallas LB Bradie James said the Cowboys are better than last year. He’s right.

I would hope so.

CBS, Pete Prisco: #9

Prisco has been high on the Cowboys since the off-season and has moved them back into the top 10. He has the Lions all the way to #2, though.

Don’t ever question Tony Romo’s toughness again. Did he ever tough it out Monday night. PS: He didn’t complain about the hits after the game, either.

Fox, Brian Billick: #12

The Cowboys moved from #14 to #12 on Billick’s list, jumping ahead of the Falcons and Eagles.

Tony Romo’s performance may have been one of the more courageous things I have seen. Not only that, he had to tell each receiver where to line up before every play. This team will only get better as the year goes on.

Dallas Cowboys Official Weekly from September 28, 1985

Doug Cosbie: Hard Road to the Top

A reader named Bruce Lombard earlier this year most generously sent me a stack of copies of the old Dallas Cowboys Official Weekly from the 1985 season and 1986 offseason. Each Wednesday, we will take a look at some interesting tidbits in these issues.

The focus this week is in the issue published on September 28, 1985.

Ask Tex Schramm: What’s the Deal with the Line Shift?

A readers asked Tex Schramm about the Cowboys’ line shift, where the linemen stand up at the line before getting into their stances. Schramm called this the Cowboys’ trademark and noted that the shift is legal and that there is a reason behind it.

When the Cowboys come up to the line of scrimmage, they assume the semi-crouching two-point stance, and then on a command such as “set,” they stand up and then go down to a three-point stance. This is not considered illegal motion or false start because it precedes the player assuming the three-point stance. The original purpose for this was to obscure the shifting of the backs, which occurs at the same time. That reason still prevails.

Danny White Catches a Touchdown in a 20-7 Win Over Cleveland

The Cowboys did not have a big passing day against the Browns in a week 3 win, but the passes were effective. QB Danny White turned into a receiver on one play when Tom Landry called the old “Quarterback Throwback.” Halfback James Jones took a handoff and rolled right. Jones then threw the ball across the field to White, who caught the pass for a touchdown. It was White’s third reception of his career and second touchdown catch.

With the win, Dallas moved back into the Top 10 NFL Poll at the #10 spot. Seattle remained at #1 with a 2-1 record, while San Francisco and Chicago had the #2 and #3 spots, respectively.

Doug Cosbie: Hard Times and Discipline Shaped His Football Life

The cover story focused on tight end Doug Cosbie. He grew up in the lower-class town of East Palo Alto, California, near San Jose. His mother had to support his family when his parents divorced, and his older brother was in and out of jail. He did not appear to have all-pro potential when he played at Santa Clara or when he joined the league in 1979. However, by 1985, he had been a member of two consecutive Pro Bowl teams.

Herschel Walker Isn’t Coming to Dallas Anytime Soon

Some wondered whether Herschel Walker might join the Cowboys sooner rather than later. But the USFL star told radio host Norm Hitzges that he was committed to Donald Trump and the New Jersey Generals. In three USFL seasons, he had gained 5,562 yards.

Kevin Brooks Wants to Play

First-round draft pick Kevin Brooks wanted to break into the staring lineup, but defensive coach Ernie Stautner said Brook wasn’t quite ready. Said Stautner, “He needs to find a way to escape a pass blocker that holds and grabs.” However, Stautner also said he thought Brooks was “going to be a good one.”

Jim Jeffcoat Gets Engaged

Third-year defensive end Jim Jeffcoat was the focus on a story about his recent engagement to Tammy Young, a flight attendant for American Airlines. Groomsmen in the wedding included Too Tall Jones and Mark Tuinei, along with one-time Cowboys Kirk Phillips and Chuck McSwain. At the time, Jeffcoat owned a home in Carrollton.

[Fast forward a few years, and the couple’s children were making news. Jacqueline Jeffcoat plays basketball for the University of Oklahoma, while twin brother Jackson plays football at the University of Texas. Jim and Tammy still live in Plano]

 

Nobody Handles Bad Snaps Like Tony Romo

Tony Romo may never win a Super Bowl and may go down in history as an overrated high-profile quarterback.

But nobody—nobody—can dispute his ability to handle a bad snap. Whether it’s against the Rams in 2007 or the Redskins in 2011, Romo can turn a 20-yard loss into a two-yard gain like nobody else.

The evidence:

For the sake of my argument, I will disregard this one…

…and especially this one…

…and just remember the good times.

* * *

Tuesday Trivia for the week:

In the game against the Rams in 2007, the Cowboys faced a 3rd-and-3 from the 50 when center Andre Gurode snapped the ball over Romo’s head. Romo’s scramble gave Dallas a first down.

The question: How did this drive end, and what impact did the drive have on the game?

Dallas 18, Washington 16: A Gritty, Field-Goal-Kicking Machine

Tony Romo was a hero for a second consecutive week. Center Phil Costa was something else.

The Cowboys’ win over Washington had a bunch of subplots, and many of them didn’t reflect positively on young Dallas players.

Center Phil Costa earned the nickname “Cost Ya” with his snapping in the shotgun. On four occasions, Costa snapped the ball before Tony Romo was ready, and it was a minor miracle that Dallas never lost the ball on any of those snaps. The stat line shows that Costa was credited with three fumbles.

Left tackle Doug Free struggled with Brian Orakpo and was called for two holding penalties. Right tackle Tyron Smith wasn’t much better.

Martellus Bennett continued his streak of underachievement by failing to haul in a touchdown pass and getting called for holding on a long run by Felix Jones.

Kevin Ogletree fumbled the ball in the first quarter, setting up a Washington field goal. He also ran the wrong route on at least two other plays.

But this Dallas team has shown that it is as gritty as it is young. Romo has rebounded from his problems against the Jets in week 1 to lead Dallas to two late wins in a row. And while most have focused on Romo playing through injuries, he has also appeared to be more vocal on the field. Costa’s ears might end up hurting as bad as Romo’s ribs.

In the end, rookie kicker Dan Bailey hit six field goals, and most were perfect. The defense came up huge at the end, as Anthony Spencer stripped Rex Grossman on a sack, and linebacker Sean Lee picked up the ball to secure an 18-16 Dallas win.

Lee continues to show why he might be the next great linebacker in team history. In addition to his final fumble recovery, he picked off a pass early in the second quarter to set up a field goal. He had a total of eight tackles.

Felix Jones had some big second-half runs and finished with 115 yards on just 14 carries. He also added 40 receiving yards.

Neither team played well in the red zone in the first half and had to settle for three field goals a piece. The ESPN broadcast showed that this was only the second time in NFL history that two teams had been tied 9-9 at the half with three field goals for each team.

Dallas took the ball early in the third and moved the ball near midfield. But on third-and-long, the Redskins blitzed, and Romo threw the ball to a spot where Ogletree should have been. However, Ogletree ran upfield, and Washington’s Kevin Barnes intercepted.

Washington then began a nine-play drive that resulted in a touchdown from Rex Grossman to Tim Hightower.

From there, Dallas chipped away at the lead. A 29-yard run by Jones helped to move the ball into Washington territory near the end of the third quarter, and Bailey eventually made a field goal.

The Dallas defense did not let Washington score again. The Cowboys stopped the Redskins on two straight possessions, and after the second, Dallas drove down field again to hit another field goal with about seven minutes left. Free-agent acquisition Laurent Robinson had a 25-yard catch-and-run that moved the ball into the red zone.

Washington drove into Dallas territory with a 16-15 lead, but DeMarcus Ware recorded a sack the pushed the Redskins back. Washington punted, giving Dallas the ball at its own 14.

Ogletree game up big when it mattered, catching a 20-yard pass that moved the ball to the Dallas 41. On the next play, though, Costa snapped the ball too soon yet again, resulting in an 11-yard loss.

With the Cowboys facing a 3rd-and-21 at their own 30, Romo was hurried from the pocket. He rolled right before letting the ball go. On the receiving end was Dez Bryant, who caught the ball and made the first down. DeAngelo Hall might have confused Bryant’s facemask for Romo’s ribs, and the 15-yard penalty on Hall put the Cowboys in field goal range. Dallas could only run the clock down to 1:52 before Bailey hit his sixth field goal.

The Redskins moved the ball to the their own 43, but with 38 seconds left, Ware bull-rushed up the middle, forcing Grossman to roll left. Spencer came from the left end spot and chased Grossman down. Spencer stripped the ball, and Lee came up with the recovery.

Simulations Favor Dallas Despite the Injuries

The Cowboys are limping into their week 3 matchup against the Redskins, but according to most simulations, Dallas has the edge. Here’s a look:

AccuScore: Dallas 26, Washington 23

The Cowboys won 57.5% of the simulations on AccuScore.

AccuScore is forecasting a close game with the Washington Redskins winning 42% of simulations, and the Dallas Cowboys 57% of simulations. In close games, turnover margin is especially important. The Washington Redskins commit fewer turnovers in 47% of simulations and they go on to win 60% when they take care of the ball. The Dallas Cowboys wins 74% of the simulations in which they commit fewer turnovers. Tim Hightower is averaging 54 rushing yards per sim. If he can have a great game with better than average rushing yards and at least a 1 rushing TD (28% chance) then he helps his team win 64%. Felix Jones is averaging 48 rushing yards per sim. If he can have a great game with better than average rushing yards and at least a 1 rushing TD (17% chance) then he helps his team win 75%

What If Sports: Dallas 23, Washington 22

The What If Sports simulations were a bit closer. Dez Bryant and Jason Witten both averaged 68 receiving yards, and Tony Romo averaged just over 300 yards per game. Dallas only won 50.7% of the games.

Madden: Dallas 23, Washington 16

Witten played a big role in the Madden simulation, catching nine passes for 104 yards and a touchdown in a 23-16 win. Kevin Ogletree also caught a touchdown.

Tecmo Super Bowl 2012: Dallas 41, Washington 10

In the most important simulation, Dallas improved to 3-0 in the Tecmo Super Bowl world with a 41-10 rout of Washington.

Cowboys and Redskins Are Even in Monday Night Games

At least two stories on the web (here and here) have focused on the best wins by the Redskins over the Cowboys on Monday Night Football. Dallas sites have not focused quite as much attention on the history of the rivalry.

Dallas and Washington have faced each other 14 times on Monday Night Football, and both teams have won seven of those games. You can read about the losses if you’d like, but this post focuses on the Dallas wins.

September 8, 1980: Dallas 17, Washington 3

Dallas rushed for 177 yards in the opening-day win over Washington. This marked Danny White’s first start as the full-time starter, but Dallas relied on the rushing game to secure the win.

September 5, 1983: Dallas 31, Washington 30

In one of the great comebacks in team history, Dallas erased a 23-3 halftime deficit and pulled out a 31-30 win.

September 9, 1985: Dallas 44, Washington 14

Dallas picked off Joe Theismann (happy birthday) six times in an opening-day rout.

September 7, 1992: Dallas 23, Washington 10

The Cowboys had to face the defending Super Bowl champions and came away with the big win in the opening week.

September 18, 2000: Dallas 27, Washington 21

Dallas looked terrible in an 0-2 start, but Randall Cunningham led the team to its first win under head coach Dave Campo.

October 15, 2001: Dallas 9, Washington 7

Some prominent names in this win—QB Anthony Wright, who led the Cowboys to the win in his third career start; and K Tim Seder, who hit three field goals.

September 27, 2004: Dallas 21, Washington 18

Dallas improved its record to 2-1 in 2004 by beating the Redskins at FedEx Field. A highlight of the game was fullback Richie Anderson throwing a TD pass to receiver Terry Glenn.