Dallas Cowboys' epic collapse: dunce caps all around

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Oct 03, 2011



By Adam Dobrowolski
Cold, Hard Football Facts Cowboys beat writer


Oh, Tony Romo, how you love to test the unwavering and black-hearted ways involved with Cold Hard Football Facts. Despite all the media’s criticisms after your Week 1 fourth-quarter collapse, the facts came to your defense by showing that your career numbers top Tom Brady’s in key situations.
 
You lived up to that billing taking earned back-to-back fourth-quarter comebacks in San Francisco and on Monday Night Football against Washington, doing so with a broken rib in the process.
 
But as only you can, you quickly give the Mainstream Media another platform to question your winning credentials by blowing a 24-point second-half lead against the undefeated Detroit Lions. Gone goes a 27-3 lead thanks to three interceptions, including two that were returned for touchdowns.
 
For a long while, it seemed like the Dallas Cowboys would cruise to victory. After all, they were following the foundation given to them for victory. However, the Cowboys’ Bendability eventually took a huge hit without the defense even taking the field.
 
Eventually, the result was an NFL-record 24-point lead blown at home as the Cowboys lost, 34-30. Despite a dominant day for the Cowboys on some fronts, it was once again the mistakes and inconsistencies plaguing Big D. Instead of giving the Lions a taste of reality, they gave Detroit its franchise-best fifth consecutive road victory. (No joke, that’s a franchise record. So there's all the defense a depressed Dallas needs to use against the Lions faithful.)
 
However, the blame goes far beyond the soon-to-be maligned Romo. As we learn five things about this Week 4 wild one, we learn who earned a dunce cap for the week.
 
1. One dunce cap goes to Jason Garrett for not managing the lead properly at all.
When a team is up by 24 points in the second half, the general rule of thumb is too run the ball a lot while allowing only short, safe throws. Doing this will force the Lions offense to beat Dallas, and that quickly wasn’t happening at that point.
 
Before the first pick six, Dallas owned a 306-134 advantage in total offensive yards. Matthew Stafford wasn’t really moving offense, as the Lions gained more than 30 yards in only one drive. At worst, if Dallas solely focused on running the ball, Detroit could take the lead very late. But that would have only happened if the defense absolutely collapsed. Considering the Cowboys defense until that point, the comeback was extremely unlikely.
 
Instead, Romo passed the ball 13 times until the Cowboys gave up the lead. Compare that to 11 carries in the run game. That’s down right unacceptable when a team owns a 24-point lead, especially when Minnesota’s near-refusal to run in the second half last week cost them a 20-point lead to the Lions.
 
It was only fitting two of Romo’s interceptions came on the first play of a drive, because it simply magnified the horrible play calling of Garrett.
 
2. Two dunce caps go to Tony Romo for horrible interceptions.
Yes, Romo deserved two dunce caps despite throwing three interceptions with lead. That’s because two interceptions go squarely on his shoulders. First, with the Cowboys leading 27-3, Romo tries to throw a curl to Dez Bryant on the right sideline. The only problem is that Bobby Carpenter completely snuffed it out underneath.
 
If that sounds familiar, it’s because Romo an interception on nearly the same play when Darrelle Revis set up the go-ahead field goal for the Jets in Week 1. For that reason alone, Romo deserves one dunce cap. (Of course, to further punish Garrett, this interception happened on a play action fake. You need to run the ball to fake out the defense, Jason.)
 
Second, on Romo’s last interception, he throws a back-footed deep post to Jason Witten. On a first-and-10, and with the lead, the clear and obvious decision is to roll out of the pocket and throw the ball out of bounds. Although Romo can’t take many hits due to his ribs, he had more than enough room to get out of trouble to allow the team to live another down.
 
If Romo wants to become a champion, that play immediately needs to leave his playbook. BrettFavring the game only leads to countless tragic falls.
 
3. One dunce cap goes to Laurent Robinson for not being to run a slant.
Notice how Romo didn’t get a dunce cap for his second interception. That because the blame goes to Laurent Robinson for the interception. The play is a 3rd-and-2, and Robinson is designed to make a quick slant. It’s actually a reasonable scenario to pass the ball, because a first down puts the ball at least to the Detroit 45-yard line with a 17-point Dallas lead. A score in this game could possibly put the game away.
 
Instead, Robinson stutters when making the cut inside, and he gets jammed by Chris Houston. Due to the quick and rhythmic nature of the play, Romo fails if Robinson fails. And because Robinson allows Houston to get inside, Detroit gets another interception.
 
Of course, that’s not all Robinson gets blame for. After the interception, Robinson could pretty easily make a tackle to at least keep it a 17-point lead. Not here. Houston spins away as he gains possession, and the rest becomes ill-fated history for the Dallas offense.
 
4. One collective dunce cap goes to the rest of the offense not knowing much of anything about defending an interception return.
While the interceptions shouldn’t happen with a lead, the least that the rest of the offense could do is prevent a pick six. Somehow the Cowboys allowed Bobby Carpenter to return one to the house. And it’s not like he had open real estate for pay dirt.
 
Carpenter made three guys miss along the left sideline before cutting across the field. Only then does he have a semi-convoy to get the ball the goal line.
 
It’s not like he’s Ed Reed. A simple push out of bounds will do. All the offense needs to do is at least angle him out of bounds. That much couldn’t be done.
 
Fast forward to Houston’s interception return, and the same problems happen. Houston runs down the left sideline and fakes cutting back to the middle. That shakes at least two offensive linemen, both of whom should only be worried about sealing off the edge. They should force Houston to cut back up the middle. That allows Tyron Smith and Tashard Choice to at least have a shot at the tackle.
 
If the offense uses any fundamentals in defending players in the open field, neither pick six is likely to happen. Perhaps that saves the Cowboys from an epic collapse.
 
5. One final dunce cap goes to Felix Jones for running his team’s last gasp play out of bounds.
It’s a 4th-and-20 with the Cowboys down 34-30. Jones catches a seven-yard pass and stumbles out of bounds. Nothing can properly explain this one. And that’s the game.
 
Bonus: One more collective (and preemptive) dunce cap for shouldering all the blame on Romo.
It’s going to be two long weeks in Big D, considering next week’s bye. For two weeks, all the questions and criticisms will revolve around how Romo could allow this to happen. Furthermore, this will be used as an example why Romo can’t get the job. Do we see the same question from Week 1, when some even questioned if the Cowboys should move on to a new quarterback.
 
It’s funny how the Mainstream Media saw the (expected) fourth-quarter gems in Weeks 2 and 3, and they finally began to play up Romo’s leadership. There hasn’t been such flip-flopping since John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign.
 
Pigskin Detention better be ready, because Romo’s sterling numbers will be totally ignored until his next glorious moment. 

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