Breaking Down Tony Romo's Form at the NFL's Midseason Mark

Jason Henry@thenprojectCorrespondent IOctober 24, 2012

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 21:  Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys during their game at Bank of America Stadium on October 21, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys were able to hold off the Carolina Panthers on Sunday for their third victory of the season. By no means was it a convincing enough win for fans and pundits to increase their faith in the Cowboys ability to make the playoffs, but it served its purpose.

Dallas is now up one in the win column, nothing more, and nothing less.

The leader of the Dallas Cowboys is by far Tony Romo. He is the quarterback, the signal caller and the field general. In essence, he is the fuel that makes the Cowboys offense go.

So, what is wrong with him this season?

At this point in 2011, Romo had already thrown for 10 touchdowns and almost 1,800 yards. To start the season against the Jets last season, Romo found Jets cornerback Derrelle Revis that turned the game in the Jets favor. The Cowboys ended up losing 24-27.

Through the first seven weeks of 2011, Romo's second bad game happened against the Lions. He completed nearly 73 percent of his passes, tossed three touchdowns and had 331 yards through the air.

But Romo also found three Lions players, including his best friend, former Lions linebacker Bobby Carpenter, for three turnovers. It turned out to be a nightmarish type of performance for Romo where many pundits started to question his decision-making ability on the field again.

Still, with the Jets and Lions losses, the Cowboys ended up having a record of 3-3 to start 2011 through seven weeks.

Sound familiar? Probably because we are seeing a repeat of how the Cowboys performed in 2011 this year. Overall, they have been inconsistent, lethargic at times, and just bad in certain spots.

In 2011, Romo was firing missiles and throwing an average of 36 pass attempts per game. For 2012, nothing has changed as Romo is attempting the same amount of passes per game as he did last year.

Comparing last year to this year, the wins are the same, the passing yards are comparable, the attempts per game are exact, and the touchdowns are nearly identical.

The difference, it seems to me, in 2012, is the amount of turnovers.

Romo threw six interceptions through seven weeks in 2011, and he has tossed nine this year.

For his nine interceptions in 2012, I believe that it is safe to say that Romo is not responsible for each one. Take for instance, his first turnover of the year against the New York Giants in Week 1.

This pick I will place at Romo's doorstep. The Giants only rushed four linemen, but Romo faced pressure from the middle of the line by Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul. Usually, when Romo faces pressure directly in his face, he is either sacked or throws an interception, as is the case with most quarterbacks.

As Tuck is bearing down on Romo, he attempts to make a play by throwing the ball to a seemingly wide open Kevin Ogletree. Yet as Romo is trying to avoid the sack and get rid of the ball, he never sees Giants linebacker Michael Boley crossing in front of Ogletree as the ball is leaving his hands.

His error turned into a turnover, giving the Giants the ball.

Next, I'll take a gander at one of Romo's five interceptions against the Bears.

Late in the second quarter, the Cowboys were trailing by three points to the Bears. It was third and nine and Dallas had the ball on their own 26 yard line.

As the Cowboys offense emerged from its huddle, they line up in the shotgun formation in an attempt to spread the field. Before Romo called hike, he noticed that the Bears would send safety Chris Conte on a safety blitz.

Recognizing this, he motions to receiver Dez Bryant to be ready to cut his route off if Conte blitzes. When Romo snaps the ball, Conte blitzes and Romo recognizes it. He immediately gets rid of the ball by throwing it in the direction of Dez Bryant, but Bryant never cut his route off.

Instead, Bears cornerback Charles Tillman sat on the route, picked the ball off and returned it for a touchdown.

Bryant's job on that play was to turn his route into a hitch, giving Romo an out to throw the ball because he had very little time to react to the blitz.

In both cases, there were mistakes made. In the first interception against the Giants, Romo should have held on the ball and ate the sack. Instead, he tried to make a play and ended up turning the ball over.

Against the Bears, he did the right thing by finding the "hot" receiver, but the receiver ran the wrong route, causing a turnover on Romo's part.

I would say that at this point in the season, the Cowboys can either look at the glass as half empty or half full. In 2011, the Cowboys had a record of 3-3 headed into a stretch of games against the Eagles, Seahawks and Bills.

Dallas emerged from that trilogy 2-1, scoring 78 points in two wins and seven points in one loss.

This time the Cowboys have the Giants, Falcons and Eagles. Can they reel off enough wins to keep pace in the race for a playoff spot, or will they fall back to the pack and fight for their season toward the end of the year as they did in 2011?

These next few games may be the determining factor for the team as a whole, but for Romo, his first six games aren't an indicator of bad play. Dallas, as a unit, has been horribly inconsistent.

Romo's favorite target, tight end Jason Witten, ruptured his spleen in the preseason, so it took him about four weeks to get back into football shape. He has returned to full strength and gives the Cowboys another weapon in the receiving corp. Receiver Miles Austin has struggled with injuries and Bryant is still maturing.

Slot receiver Ogletree showed promise in the first game, but has tailed off since. Once the Cowboys receivers are on the same page as their quarterback, we should see Romo's numbers start to steady.



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