Posted October 06, 2013

Tony Romo’s ‘Icarus gene’ once again pops up at the worst possible time

AFC West, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, NFC East
Tony Romo's late-game interception seemed inevitable, and then, it was.

Tony Romo’s late-game interception seemed inevitable, and then, it was. (Aaron Ontiveroz/Getty Images)

Can the genius of the hero fall
To the middling stature of the merely talented?
And nightly Icarus probes his wound 

And daily in his workshop, curtains carefully drawn, 
Constructs small wings and tries to fly 
To the lighting fixture on the ceiling: 
Fails every time and hates himself for trying. 
He had thought himself a hero, had acted heroically, 
And dreamt of his fall, the tragic fall of the hero; 
But now rides commuter trains,
Serves on various committees,
And wishes he had drowned.

– Field, Edward. “Icarus” (1950). CUNY Composers.

Few could tell you more about the metaphorical dangers of flying to close to the sun than Tony Romo. He has lived the Icarus legend on the field far too often.

No matter how often Romo tries to get past the narrative that he’s a serial choker who snatches defeat from the jaws of victory, the damned narrative keeps popping up and biting him at the worst possible times. So it was on Sunday afternoon. The Dallas Cowboys quarterback set a franchise record by throwing for 506 yards and five touchdowns, but it was one play that killed him and led to the Denver Broncos kicking a late field goal to win, 51-48, in the fourth-highest scoring game in league history.

With 2:04 left in the game, the Cowboys had 2nd-and-16 at their own 14, and the game was tied, 48-48. Romo tried to get the ball out with defenders converging around him, but linebacker Danny Trevathan picked the pass off at the Dallas 24, and Matt Prater kicked the game-winning field goal a few plays later.

“We have a play where we have some seam routes going up the middle of the field,” Romo said after the game. “We had seen some things on tape, and felt like we could get one … [based on] previous two-minute, end-of-game situations. They did a good job. I didn’t get as much on it as I wanted to — I wanted to get it a foot or two more out in front. It’s frustrating and disappointing.”

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Romo was asked if he would have been better off taking a sack in that situation, and his answer revealed that yes, he does understand situational football.

“Those plays, they happen pretty quick — you’ve got to pull the trigger. If you wait for the second window … in hindsight, I’d rather do anything but what we did there. Saying that, you’re at 2nd-and-16, and if you do take a sack, you’re giving the ball back with two minutes to go at the 50-yard line. A lot of things come into play.”

Add in the fact that he was facing an opponent with a quarterback who can practically score at will. Still, this play led to the inevitable crush of Romo-bashing, specifically about his inability to make it count when the situations are most important. The narrative is both true and false.

Romo has an above-average DVOA (Football Outsiders’ opponent-adjusted per-play efficiency metric) in late and close situations (any play in the second half or overtime when the score is within eight points). The 2010 season is the only exception, and in the other four seasons, Romo’s DVOA is actually higher in those situations than overall. And if you choose to argue that Romo melts under the brightest spotlights, consider that he has one of the best Quarterback DVOA rankings in nationally televised games since 2008.

However, he has an abysmal track record in “win-or-go-home” games, and the Cowboys have lost the last eight games in which he’s thrown a fourth-quarter pick. It’s not that Romo doesn’t understand the importance of keeping things together in crunch time — it’s just that he unravels when he really needs to do anything but.

“It’s just about winning and losing,” he said, when asked if his stats mattered at all. “As a quarterback, you know that. You leave everything on the field just to try and win these football games, and it’s disappointing when you don’t. We had a chance today against as good a football team as there is, and we know that.”

If anything, Romo tries to do too much at times. And the 2nd-and-16 situation, set up by the Shaun Phillips sack on the previous play, may have triggered Romo’s tendency to play the hero at the worst possible time. It’s a mutated tendency that some great quarterbacks have — from Bobby Layne to Johnny Unitas to Fran Tarkenton to Warren Moon to that Brett Favre guy. Some signal-callers can’t — or won’t — listen when that little voice tells them to pull it down and live for the next play.

It’s pretty simple — sometimes, thinking you can be the hero makes you the goat. The same thing that makes Romo great at times also proves to be his undoing. Icarus would be proud — and many other great quarterbacks would understand.

30 comments
Cougarblue
Cougarblue

What does the guy sitting three yards behind the first down marker have to do to draw attention to himself? A sack or an INT, the only options? He has his intermediate receiver wide open yet tosses to ball into triple coverage. I think we call that myopia, he was keying on the guy he tried to get the ball to ignoring any other receivers. Romo's problem is that he believes all the glowing press and ignores the criticism. I don't know of any other QB to get so much attention for accomplishing so little.

NicholasBrunson
NicholasBrunson

When you put up 48 points, one interception doesn't lose the game, no matter when it happens. #whereyouatD

laurielynn78
laurielynn78

as a Vikings fan I hate Dallas but this article ignores reality. Romo's offensive line was pushed back by a 3 man front, as a result Romo stepped on his center's foot when he threw the ball. The rookie TE who the ball was meant for didn't square off his route. He cut right at the 21 and ended up at the 25 thus allowing the Denver LB to undercut him. Anyone who watched the game and had any football sense saw this. Apparently the writer of this column doesn't fit the bill.

YemiThaBassMan
YemiThaBassMan

Full Disclosure: Niners Fan here. No dog in this fight.

With that said, it looks like Romo is stumbling into the throw, like one of his linemen may have tripped him up. I'm not sure this throw was entirely on him. 

Yes, he has a history of making bad throws at inopportune times. But against any other team, Dallas easily wins this game in a blowout. Like a commenter stated, "If a QB throws for 500 yards and 5 TDs and still loses, that's on the defense". 

The only time that should happen is in a game of Madden. 

Yes, it's Peyton Manning lining up under center for the other team, but still. If the Dallas D had made even ONE stop, or forced an additional turnover, the Broncos would most likely be 4-1 today. 

Blaming Romo is just plain idiotic. And I hate the Cowboys. 

MrTemecula
MrTemecula

ITA that Romo's career can be compared to Icarus.....or a kid's show, "That's so Romo!"

j7apple
j7apple

I am by far not an expert at football, but is there a reason why Dallas doesn't just let Denver score an easy TD to get the the ball back down by seven with 2 minutes to go, as opposed to lose by 3 with no time left? At least they have a chance and OT.

There wasn't a soul out there watching that knew how this was going to end.

RobertSmith
RobertSmith

The second rated QB for the season in the NFL threw for over 500 yards ... 5 TDs ... almost single handedly kept his team in a game where their defense stunk and they committed a multitude of penalties ... led the offense to 48 points (only 1 other team out of the 24 that played yesterday scored more) and yet HE is being blamed for the loss?

sunalsorises
sunalsorises

The defense is terrible.  Even so, this loss belongs to Romo.  The team put it his hands when they decided to abandon the run and let Romo try to outscore the Broncos.  The plan worked.  Romo had the ball in his hands for the win with 2:00 left and threw it away.

rskins09
rskins09

QB gets too much criticism  when his team loses and too much glory when the team wins ...Can't blame this loss on Romo ..Dallas defense gave up  51 points ....This game reminded me of  a AFC game in the early 1960's .. No defense  but entertaining ...Not a Cowboy fan by any means but seems like Romo  is Dallas' whipping boy ..Is Romo a franchise QB   - top three , four NFL QB's ..? .. No, but I'd put him in the top  10  - out of 32 QB s in the NFL .... Counting down the days until  the Redskins-Cowboys game this Sunday ...Can't wait ..   PS . One thing I do get tired of is that Jerry Jones never shuts up ..Know he's the owner & all that  but he talks too much and comes across as a know-it-all  ..   

LumpArrington
LumpArrington

all jerry jones said was thats the best game romo played,so,he threw the int that lead to the score

JackKennedy
JackKennedy

a team that puts up 48 points does not have a QB problem ............. at least on that day

Romo will always pull the boo boo..............he just does not have the SMARTS (suitable gray matter between the ears) not to............ but, he should not be PUT in the situation cuz we, in Dallas, know he is gonna dumb it down for such a play at such an inopportune time ................. 

as much as he can look like it at times and much to our chagrin.................HE AIN'T BRETT FAVRE


But, this LOSS ain't on Romo .............. besides, who are you going to replace him with and there are a TON of teams that would love to have him cuz they have worse QB problems ..............

It's truly unfortunate as Dallas finally has the CORE of a good team in place, but your best players ........... romo/witten/ware..........are at retirement age..................so, there you go, rebuilding AGAIN



dubiahd
dubiahd

Tony Romo is a talented quarterback, not a great one.  I've been a Cowboys fan since their inception.  Winning only one playoff game in the past many years suggests that the quarterback is ineffective at winning.  Until the Cowboys move on at this position, they'll continue to find ways not to win.

M as in Mancy
M as in Mancy

This loss ain't on Romo. If a QB throws for 500 yards and 5 TDs and still loses, that's on the defense. Give the defender credit for an amazing play. One questionable throw didn't lose the game. It was defense getting smoked all afternoon for 51.

bay2sierra
bay2sierra

Peyton Manning is a greater QB than Tony Romo, no question about it. Tony Romo throws interceptions that ruin his team's playoff hopes, whereas Peyton Manning only throws interceptions that ruin his teams' Superbowl hopes.

3M_TA3
3M_TA3

Yep, bad throw.

But the real fault belongs to a D who allowed TDs on five straight drives.

If you score 48 and lose, look no further than your defense.

Ason
Ason

Que TO: "thats my Qb"....thats how I feel after that... knew it was coming as a life long 'Boys fan... truth is he did a lot more to win the game than lose it... we put up 48 f'n points( lookin at U Monte)...going toe -to-toe with an out of his mind this season peyton manning is far more than I expected today....theres less than 5qb's i'd swap him out for in the league today.. alot of teams cant say that...

Cougarblue
Cougarblue

When you have to score to tie, it doesn't matter if you have thrown for 500 yards or 5 yards prior. It's on your shoulders, you are being judged for your ability to work whatever magic you pocess, in a span of 2 minutes to cross that goal line. Throw out the failure on the part of the defense, as well as everything that has happened so far, it doesn't matter, it's immaterial to what you must do to win or lose. Stats aren't the story, only a W or the L matters. You all are so caught up in what he did before this make-or-break drive. They don't hand out awards for almost winning or having the best numbers in a loss.

nemo227
nemo227

@YemiThaBassMan   You said it right.  Five TDs and 500 yards . . .  there's no fault and no shame.  One field goal takes it all away.

DCBoyz58
DCBoyz58

@j7apple  Denver said they were not going to score, just wanted to go for the first down. The back was told not to score.

gymviking
gymviking

@RobertSmith I don't know that he is necessarily to blame for this loss (didn't see the game), but Romo's greatest skill is to play just well enough to lose in the big games. He does it very consistently and it will break your heart as a Dallas fan. As a non-Dallas fan, I love it. They are eliminated for the duration of his contract, regardless of his rating.

MoveForward
MoveForward

@RobertSmith Hardly seems fair.  I'm a long time Denver fan and I have to tip my hat to his play yesterday.  Instead of blaming Romo, the emphasis should be on the fact that Denver was finally getting pressure on the him.  Manning also threw a pick under pressure.  If he hadn't then Dallas would not have been in position to win the game at the end.

BryanCustard
BryanCustard

@sunalsorises I understand that he threw a pick with 2:00 left, but how often do you throw for 500 yds, 5 tds, put 48 points on the board and lose? This ones on the D, I do't care what team you are playing, 48 points by the offense should always equal a W

OwG
OwG

@sunalsorises 

Romo did throw into coverage, but Danny Travethan made an incredible athletic play on that ball. He deserves some credit. 

DCBoyz58
DCBoyz58

@rskins09 He only talks when the MEDIA puts a microphone in his face.

NicholasBrunson
NicholasBrunson

@dubiahd The Cowboys have been mediocre for the nearly two decades, long before Romo got there. If we're honest, and we look at this team objectively... no run-game, no pass protection, no defense, one of the penalized teams in the league, questionable coaching, and then there's the Jerry Jones effect.  They're not built for the postseason.  They're built to win 4 games.  Yet somehow they're battling for the divisioin title at the end of the year.  Somehow they went toe-to-toe on Sunday with what will probably go down as the most efficient offensive unit in NFL history.

Romo is not keeping Dallas from the playoffs, he's keeping them from the bottom of the division.

MoveForward
MoveForward

@3M_TA3 So far no other defense has stopped Denver this year, why should Dallas suddenly be able to?  This was a game of two very hot quarterbacks. It will be some time before you see the like again.  

patsfan94
patsfan94

@3M_TA3 Agreed, this reminds me of people blaming Johnny Manziel for the Alabama loss a few weeks ago.  Not their faults that their defenses resembled tissue paper.

JakeRose
JakeRose

@nemo227 @YemiThaBassMan Yea. Plus from what I saw, it looked like the ref also kept Tony from seeing the defender. Overall I personally believe Romo outplayed Manning that game...I never thought I'd be able to say that.

j7apple
j7apple

@OwG @sunalsorises I had only wished Travethan could have got up and run for a TD where he may have dropped it at the one  lol