Tony Romo's Epic 500-Yard Game Undone by Last-Minute Choke

Mike FreemanNFL National Lead WriterOctober 6, 2013

Throughout much of Tony Romo's game against the Denver Broncos, he was better than Peyton Manning. He was better than anyone in football. It was, well, beautiful to watch.

The throws were so accurate that Denver's defenders looked slightly frightened—like children on a sandlot when the bully shows up. One pass...complete. Another...complete. And another. Another. Passes went deep and short and to the sidelines and then deep again. Romo reached every part of the field.

It wasn't just one of the best performances we've seen this season; it was one of the best performances we've ever seen a professional pass-thrower have in the history of the sport.

Two-hundred yards. Three. Then four. Soon, Romo surpassed 500. Each time Manning scored, Romo matched. He looked fearless, and there was no hint we would see, you know, him. The other Romo.

No hint until when the Dallas Cowboys needed Romo the most. This is where the trouble happens for him.

When the vice begins squeezing, some of the players' internal organs harden and resist. Other players experience shrinkage.

Joe Montana was a beast. Johnny Unitas was the same. The great ones don't consistently make horrid mistakes when they're needed most.

Romo saw his first 35 passes happen without an interception, and then the interception came on the 36th. It set up the Denver Broncos at the Dallas 24 with just under two minutes to play. It destroyed the Cowboys.

Romo's Sunday was nuanced. He was brilliant, and his defense was awful. When the Cowboys look back at this game, there will be plenty of blame for all to digest. Romo didn't lose this game by himself.

Yet we saw the same old Romo. This isn't trolling or unfair. This is accurate.

We've seen this Romo over and over and over again. We've seen him do this in the the sunshine...inside...outside...against the best defenses and the worst. We've seen Romo throw a pick at the worst possible moment. We've seen him choke. We've seen him Matt Schaub it many times.

It's unfair to totally blame Romo, but it would be equally so to not to see what he is. His game is superficially gorgeous, but internally unsatisfying—like canned ham. 

There is no other quarterback in football today like Romo.

Peyton Manning has faltered in big postseason moments, but at least he has made the playoffs in 12 different seasons. Dan Marino had stunning abilities, yet he played in just one Super Bowl. He at least made it there. There are times when Eli Manning looks like a five-year-old lost in a furniture store, but he's beaten Bill Belichick and Tom Brady twice in Super Bowls.

Brady has lost games in big spots, yet he's been to five Super Bowls.

Oct 6, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) is sacked in the fourth quarter by Denver Broncos defensive end Shaun Phillips (90) at AT&T Stadium.  The Denver Broncos beat the Dallas Cowboys 51-48. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emm
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Romo is one of the only quarterbacks to put up massive numbers and show perhaps the most raw talent of almost any thrower today yet consistently lose in big spots. There are few active players in any sport who do what Romo does: play brilliant and play small at the same time.

Only in the world of "Romoville" does he throw for 506 yards, five touchdowns and still be the cad. Amazing.

"When the game is on the line he throws an INT," tweeted Jerry Rice.

Yes, that Jerry Rice. He trolled Romo hard. Then again, he's Jerry Rice. He didn't serially drop big passes in big games. He caught them.

So here we are again. Romo is once again superb. He again stuns us with his performance as he matched, and surpassed, Manning.

And here we are again—another day.

Another Romo choke.