Dallas Cowboys – On Tony Romo and the Clutch Issue

Is Tony Romo ever going to shake the label of fourth quarter/December choker off of him? Some of the numbers during his career suggest that it’s quite the opposite, yet these late-game interceptions keep on coming, as the Dallas Cowboys find themselves with a losing record despite playing quite well on both end of the field so far this season.

Romo had an incredible performance in the 48-51 loss to the Denver Broncos: He threw for 506 yards (14.1 yards per attempt!) and five touchdowns. But everyone will remember the interception, caught by Danny Trevathan, which set up the Broncos’ game winning field goal.

Tony Romo

It wasn’t such a bad throw from Romo, but more of a big play from Trevathan. It doesn’t matter. Romo should be better than this, He actually is better than making that mistake, even if his offensive line didn’t hold on that play, and Tyron Smith got pushed into him. He should have felt it coming, and adjusted by sliding to the right.

Romo tried to force the play, feeling confident from an evening of an amazing duel with Peyton Manning. He tried a tight pass to Gavin Escobar who was covered quite well, instead of trying to find DeMarco Murray, who was wide open across the middle.

This isn’t the first time Romo botches things in the final quarter, as these interceptions have become somewhat of a misleading staple to his career. He threw one against the Steelers in 2008, with the score tied and less than two minutes to play. He had pressure coming at him from the right side, and he tried to force a pass to Jason Witten. DeShea Townsend picked it off, returning it for a touchdown. Romo’s December issue began back then.

In 2011, the season opener against the New York Jets went quite wrong as Romo simply misread the defense and threw an interception straight into the hands of Darrelle Revis, setting up a game winning field goal. A few weeks later, leading with 4:22 to go, Romo threw off of his backfoot against the incoming pressure. The Lions made the most of the turnover, setting up a game-winning touchdown, completing a 24-point comeback, with Romo throwing two pick-sixes in the game.


In the 2012 finale Romo had another backfoot interception as the Cowboys played an all-or-nothing game against the Washington Redsksins, Rob Jackson coming up with the pick, leading to a win that kept the Cowboys out of the playoffs for a third consecutive season, finishing once again at 8-8, unable to come through on the final game of the season.

But there are countering numbers to all the Romo bashing: He has 18 4th quarter comebacks, and 19 game winning drives in his career. His career passer rating in the fourth quarter is 102, the best in NFL history. In the final three minutes of one-score games, Romo has had seven of 272 attempts intercepted during his career. That’s better percentage than Super Bowl winning quarterbacks Eli Manning (15 of 220), Drew Brees (13 of 234), Ben Roethilsberger (13 of 249) and Joe Flacco (7 of 136).

As team sports always show, winning a championship makes it seem like you’re much better player than you actually are, while being on the losing side, due to your own faults or someone else’s, causes history to judge you quite harshly.

Hat Tip: Tim MacMahon