Assigning Blame for Major Dallas Cowboys Mistakes on Monday Night Football

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Assigning Blame for Major Dallas Cowboys Mistakes on Monday Night Football
Tim Heitman-US PRESSWIRE

The last time Tony Romo threw five interceptions in a game, the silver lining was that his Dallas Cowboys actually won, beating the Buffalo Bills 25-24 (and yes, that was also on Monday Night Football).

This time, the silver lining wasn't as clear, but it did exist. Romo was nearly perfect in the first half, and at least half of his mistakes could be traced back to his peers. 

Again, I don't think that should make Romo feel any better about an embarrassing loss and what was still a poor performance overall, but I believe it's still worth noting that it was a team disaster against the Chicago Bears rather than a Romo disaster.

Let's break down nine key mistakes that killed the Cowboys offense on Monday Night Football.

 

Mistake No. 1

It's 0-0 in the first quarter as both teams jockey for momentum. Romo makes a perfect throw to Dez Bryant on a comeback route. Bryant gets separation from Charles Tillman and has to make this grab on third down. 

He drops it, and instead of having a first down in Chicago territory, the Cowboys are forced to punt. Who knows what that drive would have led to?

Who's at fault? Bryant

 

Mistake No. 2

Romo had only four incomplete passes in the first half, but this was a biggie. It came on the drive after the one that was spoiled by Dez's first drop. This time, Bryant has a step on the coverage and is in position to score on 3rd-and-4. 

But Romo overthrows him. 

Who knows if Bryant would have caught it, but that's seven lost points on Romo. The Cowboys had to punt again, and Chicago would open the scoring on the ensuing drive.

Who's at fault? Romo

 

Mistake No. 3

Another third down, and this time, Bryant gets Charles Tillman to bite hard on a hitch'n'go.

The problem is that Romo is under the impression it's supposed to be a simple hitch.

Oops! Pick six. 

The easy assumption was that Bryant screwed up his route here, failing to convert to the hitch. But it might be a little more complicated than that. 

"It was like a press-man and went to a zone," Bryant said after the game, per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "If he pressed up, I was supposed to convert. If he backed off, I was supposed to keep it going ... He made a great play. There's really no excuses."

If that was indeed the case, then this might not be totally on Bryant. Tillman actually did back off at the snap...

But it was still man coverage, and Tillman bit and then read Romo the rest of the way. As he bit to jump the hitch route, Romo was already releasing the ball. 

It's tough to draw conclusions when we don't know the whole story, but it certainly appears to me as though Tillman turned a bad play into a good one, while Bryant failed to read the coverage properly. 

Who's at fault? Bryant, but it's not clear-cut.

 

Mistake No. 4

Dallas is down 10, but in the Chicago red zone in the third quarter, Romo throws a perfect pass on second down to Kevin Ogletree. It hits Ogletree in the hands, but he fails to pull it in and ends up deflecting it into the air to a waiting Bears defender. 

Who's at fault? Ogletree

 

Mistake No. 5

Two minutes later, the Cowboys would get the ball back at the Chicago 27-yard line, still with a chance to sway the momentum. But on first down, Romo turns it over again. The Bears don't blitz on this play, but right guard Mackenzy Bernadeau still gets dominated by Henry Melton.

He's already collapsed the pocket one second after the snap...

And Melton's able to apply enough pressure to either a) disrupt Romo's pass to Jason Witten or b) force Romo to make a stupid decision. Actually, both A and B are possible. And if B is involved at all, this isn't completely on Bernadeau

I'm actually chalking this up as a great defensive play from Melton combined with bad pass protection from Bernadeau. It's clear in this shot that Romo, who's running for his life and trying to keep his team in the game, has Witten...

But Melton knocks the ball toward Lance Briggs, who intercepts the pass and takes it to the house for another defensive touchdown. The red line is where Romo was trying to go with it, and the black line is what happened when Melton made contact...

Who's at fault? Bernadeau

 

Mistake No. 6

Dallas is down 17 now and can't afford any more errors. They drive deep into Chicago territory, and Bryant has this Romo pass in his hands on third down. If he catches it, the drive keeps going.

But he drops it and they settle for a field goal. Still down 14.

Who's at fault? Bryant

 

Mistake No. 7

The Cowboys are on their last leg down 17 in the fourth quarter. Romo has Bryant open down the right sideline for what could be a touchdown to get Dallas back into the game.

And he drops another one...

Not sure Romo could have thrown it more perfectly.

Who's at fault? Bryant

 

Mistake No. 8

What's really tough about that drop is that the next mistake wouldn't have happened if not for that one. Regardless, Romo makes a bad throw to Miles Austin on 2nd-and-long and is intercepted by D.J. Moore.

Who's at fault? Romo

 

Mistake No. 9

The final Romo pick has the least impact because the game's already out of reach with the Cowboys down 24 and just a few minutes left on the clock. Anyway, Romo simply underthrows Ogletree on a pass that gets cut off by Major Wright.

In his defense, he was trying to make something happen down big. But it's still his miscue. 

Who's at fault? Romo

 

Interestingly, the three mistakes Romo made were arguably the least costly of them all, with Bryant's drop in the first quarter in the mix as well. Bryant made three huge mistakes, while Ogletree and Bernadeau each had screwups that cost the Cowboys points. 

It's impossible to tell how much an an impact those errors had on the game, but I'm betting that if those five plays don't unfold that way, Romo doesn't throw those late picks and this game is a nail-biter rather than a blowout. 

As I stated Monday night, the difference in this game was that the Cowboys lacked focus. But focus isn't necessarily an easy thing to improve on the run. If Romo loses trust in his offensive teammates, this team will crash and burn. Thus far in 2012, they've given him little reason to have faith.

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