For the past 11 days, Romo has had to stew over his career-high-tying five-interception performance against Chicago thanks to the Cowboys’ bye week, and he has three more days until kickoff at M&T Bank Stadium to purge those thoughts from his mind.
“I wish we had games every three or four days,” Romo said, “but I think some of the big boys enjoy the time off.”
A year ago, Romo had to live through the same kind of break after a poor performance leading into the bye.
Against Detroit, he threw three second-half interceptions — two were returned for Lions touchdowns — as the Cowboys coughed up a 27-3 lead to lose 34-30 at Cowboys Stadium. Two weeks later at one of the NFL’s toughest venues to play, New England’s Gillette Stadium, he threw for 317 yards while completing 27 of 41 passes with a touchdown and an interception in a 20-16 loss to the Patriots.
After last year’s loss to the Lions and this year’s loss to the Bears, Romo made a similar pledge to do his job and stop trying to do too much.
How does he plan to implement the new/old philosophy this time?
“Well, I’m not going to go into detail,” Romo said. “That would only be silly to give you the things that I think are going to help us in this football game and going forward.”
Fair enough, but let’s look at 2011 as a possible way to explain what could happen. Before the meltdown against the Lions, Romo was sacked on average 1.8 times per game. After, he was sacked 2.4 times per game. Sometimes living to fight another day is a lot better than trying to make a play, although it does raise some health risks.
The Cowboys also ran the ball more — with 30-plus carries in four of their next six games — and had more success on the ground thanks to the ascension of DeMarco Murray. But there have been no signs of seeing that running game reappear through the season’s first four games.
One week after passing Roger Staubach for sole possession of third on the Cowboys’ all-time passing touchdown list, Romo can move even higher this week against the Ravens.
What happened against Chicago begs this question: Why does Romo, who will start the 82nd game of his career Sunday, have to go through such games before he realizes he has to do his job?
“I just think it’s the nature of the position in the National Football League,” coach Jason Garrett said. “If you look around the league, really at every quarterback, there’s always games where they’re playing well and things are going well around them and they’re kind of doing their part. And then when things aren’t going quite as well, there’s a tendency for them to try to do too much and turn the ball over. It’s just the nature of this position in this league, and it has been for a long, long time.”
Since Romo became the Cowboys’ starter in 2006, there has been a battle between the good Romo and the bad Romo. More often than not, despite what many don’t want to acknowledge, the good Romo has won out. But high-profile hiccups have occurred.
What Romo has shown is an ability to bounce back from poor games.
Monday’s game against Chicago was the 16th multiple-interception game of his career. Only twice has he had back-to-back games with multiple interceptions. Only once has had a worse passer rating in the follow-up game: He had a 55.8 rating Dec. 28, 2008, at Philadelphia after posting a 66.2 rating against the Ravens in the final game at Texas Stadium.
There is a delicate balance of letting Romo be Romo, because when he is good, he is among the NFL’s best quarterbacks. Think back to the season opener against the New York Giants when he was praised for his elusiveness and imagination.
The three touchdown passes that night were not off the original design of the play. Romo stepped away from trouble and hooked up with Kevin Ogletree for one score. The second Ogletree touchdown came on a changed route by the quarterback, as was the slant-and-go to Miles Austin that clinched the victory.
You have to take the good and hope to limit some of the bad.
“There are coaches all around this league who are having the same conversation with their quarterbacks because that’s the nature of that position,” Garrett said. “Those guys are great competitors, they’re great leaders, they want to make it right. But ultimately, you play your best at every position in this league when you focus on doing your own job.”
Romo has done that in the past.
He will have to do it again for the Cowboys to be successful now.