It’s official, Tony Romo and the Cowboy passing game is in crisis mode. The Broncos scored 17 unanswered points after the first quarter to win at home, 17-10. The Cowboys did come close to tying the game at the end missing on a 4th-and-goal play from the Denver 2-yard line. Brandon Stokely scored the go ahead touchdown on a 51-yard catch-and-run to make it 17-10 with just under 2-minutes to go before the final Cowboys’ drive failed.
After scoring 10-points in the first quarter and running the ball well with Marion Barber scoring on a 1-yard dive and a 49-yard Nick Folk field goal, Dallas committed another turnover late in the second quarter with a Romo fumble at his own 17-yard line. This was caused by a blitzing S Renaldo Hill of Denver stripping the ball on a sack from Romo’s blind side. Denver would recover and advance the ball to the Dallas 9-yard line. Denver QB Kyle Orton would connect with rookie RB Knowshon Moreno on the next play for the touchdown to cut the lead to 10-7. This would be the score all the way to the final quarter as neither team could mount much offense in the second half with the Broncos sacking Romo a total of five times and also getting an interception.
Dallas would get terrific field position to begin the second half after Denver’s Moreno fumbled on the first play from scrimmage at their own 14-yard line, but Romo would throw an interception a few plays later to give the ball right back. On the interception, it appeared that WR Miles Austin didn’t complete the route or stopped on it when Romo thought he would continue towards the sideline. This was the very thing that happened the entire game for the Cowboys’ passing attack. Romo and his receivers were just never in-sync and the offensive line didn’t perform well in protection.
Dallas’ defense held the Broncos for most of the second half including a crucial 4th-and-one at the end of the third quarter, but Romo and company would go three-and-out on the following possession. After the failed drive, Matt McBriar hit a low, line-drive punt that was short and set up the Broncos in good field position. The Broncos would then go on an 8-play 65-yrard drive that would end in a tying field goal with just under six minutes remaining in the game, 10-10. The Cowboys failed to move the ball on the subsequent possession, as usual, and the next Denver possession would result in the winning touchdown pass-and-run.
Most media sources and analysts will credit the play of Denver’s defense and its five sacks and two turnovers as the difference in this game, but in my opinion, Romo has lost his confidence. At least three of the sacks were the result of his holding the ball too long in the pocket and not wanting to make a mistake. Late in the game, facing a second down and five, instead of checking the ball down to an open Marion Barber, Romo held the ball and took an ill-advised sack to force a third-and-seventeen. He failed throughout the game to get the ball to open receivers by either throwing behind them or too high. Either he isn’t putting the ball where it should go or the receivers aren’t running the correct routes, either way, it led to disaster today in Denver.
The defense did well enough to win this one, if only the offense could have closed the door earlier. We can only hope that next week in Kansas City will be different. Romo and the Dallas receivers need to do some overtime, just like any other professional would do, after a performance like that one tonight in Denver.