If Jerry Jones was telling the truth when he said Tony Romo would have a lot more say in the game-planning process this season, then it’s time for the quarterback to get a little greedy. On the surface, the fact Romo’s only thrown one interception through four games should be cause for celebration.
His only interception of the season came in the season-opener against the New York Giants when rookie wide receiver Terrance Williams busted a route. But surely Jones didn’t make Romo one of the wealthiest quarterbacks in NFL history so he could become a busdriver. If the Cowboys had wanted a game manager at that position, they could’ve saved their money and traded for Alex Smith.
New defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin could have the greatest scheme in the league, but he doesn’t have the caliber of player that he had in his Tampa Bay years. Even if this Cowboys defense excels in takeaways, opposing teams are still going to score plenty of points. The Cowboys won’t be able to win games when the offense scores 14 points, as it did against the San Diego Chargers last week.
That’s why offensive line coach/playcaller Bill Callahan has to encourage Romo to take more shots down the field. Dez Bryant is capable of turning a quick slant into a long touchdown. But he has the athleticism to overwhelm cornerbacks on throws of 20 yards or more. Head coach Jason Garrett and Romo love to talk about taking what the defense gives them, but sometimes you have to force the action. And it might be good for Romo to take a peek at film from the Cowboys’ 21-14 win over the Peyton Manning-led Colts in Nov. 2006. It was the first start Romo made at Texas Stadium after replacing Drew Bledsoe. I’ll never forget Romo reaching up and patting Manning on the helmet after the game as if to suggest, “keep your chin up, kid.”
Romo was 19-of-23 for 226 yards in that game that ended that Colts’ bid for a perfect season. Even with Bill Parcells in his ear constantly, Romo wasn’t afraid to let it rip. Cowboys director of hyperbole Jerry Jones was feeling pretty good after that game, saying it was like “a couple of wins in the ’90s that showed our team that they could do it.”
Last week, the Cowboys seemed to fall in love with hitch routes that didn’t give receivers a chance to do much after the catch. Even if the safeties are playing deep, there’s no rule that says you can’t send a wide receiver on a deep route. The only way the Cowboys have a shot in this game is to score a lot of points and hope they force at least two turnovers on defense. Even Manning’s due for an interception every fifth game or so.
The Broncos have been solid on defense this season despite playing short-handed. Starting weakside linebacker Danny Trevathan was carted off the field Wednesday with an apparent knee injury, but an MRI revealed that he was fine. Still, he could be limited against the Cowboys on Sunday. Romo did a nice job of complimenting the Broncos’ secondary while trying to make a point with Sunday’s officials.
“They do a great job with their hands. They grab, they hold, they’ve almost put a lot of pressure on the refs – whether or not they’re going to call the game close or not,” Romo said on a conference call with Denver-based reporters. “If they get called once or twice, that’s a good thing. But they’re all over guys as far as using the little tricks, I guess you could say, that good linebackers and good secondaries use when they’re playing man coverage.”
If the Broncos choose to play a physical style with Bryant, it should work in the Cowboys’ favor. He is adept at getting separation at the line of scrimmage and finding an opening in the secondary. But at some point early in Sunday’s game Romo needs to make this defense respect the home-run ball.
Callahan’s getting a lot of the criticism for the Cowboys’ conservative approach, but perhaps it’s time for Romo to assert himself in the gameplanning process. Who knows, maybe it will lead to him patting Manning on the head again after a big win.