Cowboys vs. Patriots: Breaking Down Tom Brady, Tony Romo by Quarter
Brady, an elite quarterback, entered the game on pace to break Dan Marino's single-season record for passing yards. Romo, who hopes to turn the corner and become elite, was looking to brush off a second-half collapse against the Detroit Lions.
Both Brady and Romo benefit from having great receivers. Brady has one of the best in Wes Welker, along with another solid starter in Deion Branch and a solid tight end in Rob Gronkowski.
Romo has his terrific targets. Miles Austin is supreme and Dez Bryant is a star in the making. Both Austin and Bryant are fully healthy for the first time this season. Jason Witten is a very reliable tight end.
This piece breaks down the quarterback matchup quarter-by-quarter. Which quarterback had a better start to the game? Was Romo able to hang with Brady in the clutch? Was the final score the result of another Romo choke job? Who did better overall?
Both Brady and Romo had a rough start in the first quarter. Romo had a little rhythm in the first Cowboys drive. He hit Austin on a short pass, and then nailed Bryant on a 22-yard pass. That rhythm left when he threw an interception to Kyle Arrington.
On the next Cowboys drive, Romo completed three straight passes for 26 yards. A sack by Andre Carter stopped the drive.
Next, Romo and the Cowboys started a drive deep in Patriots territory after Terence Newman picked off Brady. Despite starting at the Patriots 23-yard line, the Cowboys had to settle for a field goal. Romo threw an incomplete pass. Had he been willing to air it out, the Cowboys may have been able to take the lead at that point with a touchdown.
As soon as Romo and the rest of the Cowboys offensive unit could catch their breath, the Cowboys had the ball back deep in Patriots territory. Romo played conservative. He threw a short one to Austin for eight yards and threw a short one incomplete to Kevin Ogletree. The Cowboys ran more than they passed on that series, which ended with Tashard Choice losing a fumble.
Brady only had two drives in the first half. His first drive was successful. Brady took the Patriots 34 yards--20 of which came on three short passes by Brady--and the Patriots took an early lead with a field goal. Brady started his next drive by throwing an interception to Newman.
Both Romo and Brady threw interceptions and led drives that ended in field goals. Neither was any more accurate than the other to start the game. Romo was 6-for-8 for 34 yards. Brady was 3-for-4 for 20 yards. Since Brady led the Patriots on a longer scoring drive, he had a slight advantage.
Brady and Romo both played pretty well in the second quarter.
Brady started the quarter with a scoring drive. The drive was highlighted by Brady's 45-yard pass to Branch. While the drive ended in a field goal, Brady did orchestrate an 11-play, 72-yard drive.
Brady would strike harder on the next Patriots drive. He completed his last four passes and connected with Welker for a five-yard touchdown. Brady placed the pass perfectly on the flat so that Welker could simply catch it and go for the end zone. Brady was 4-for-6 for 50 yards on the drive.
The drive gave Brady 22 straight games with a passing touchdown.
Romo struggled on the first Cowboys drive of the second quarter. After a sharp nine-yard pass to Austin, Romo mistimed a screen pass to Jones and Rob Ninkovich tipped it. Romo was 1-for-4 on the drive.
On the next Cowboys drive, Romo was hot. Romo completed all six of his passes for 71 yards. Two of Romo's passes were simply masterful. Romo waited a while in the pocket before slipping one over the middle to Choice for seven yards.
With the Cowboys on the Patriots 12-yard line, Romo rolled out and hit John Philips with a pass to give the Cowboys first-and-goal. Shortly thereafter, Romo hit Witten for the touchdown catch.
The drive was one of Romo's better works of art this season.
Brady had two very nice scoring drives in the second quarter. Romo had one underwhelming drive and one great scoring drive.
Brady was 7-for-10 for 114 yards. Romo was 7-for-10 for 80 yards. Brady brought the Patriots into the locker room at the half with the lead.
Romo was on target once again in the third quarter.
On his only drive of the quarter, Romo led the Cowboys to a score. Romo's first pass of the quarter was scary for Cowboys fans. The ball was up for grabs and nearly intercepted by Vince Wilfork.
Romo recovered and threw four straight completions. With the Cowboys ready to punch in a touchdown, Romo simply had to lay it in a receiver's hands. He did, but the pass still fell incomplete.
Romo tossed a dump pass to DeMarco Murray, but Murray let it fall through his hands.
"He might have been able to get a touchdown on that one," Troy Aikman said on the FOX telecast.
After a penalty and a sack, Romo slipped a screen pass to Choice. Then, the Cowboys let Dan Bailey kick the field goal to tie the game.
Brady wasn't too accurate in the third quarter.
He threw both of his passes incomplete on the first Patriots drive of the quarter. Jay Ratliff had Brady by the ankles on the second, forcing him to fall and throw it in the direction of Welker.
On the second drive of the quarter, Brady led the Patriots on a long drive. Brady kept to the short passes on that drive. Gronkowski had two eight-yard catches to highlight the drive. Aaron Hernandez had the ball punched out by Bradie James and Newman recovered it. Brady did his job, but it wasn't enough.
Romo led a scoring drive. That was the difference. Romo might have been able to give the Cowboys the lead, but a field goal did the job for the moment. Romo was 4-for-6 for 59 yards. Brady was 7-for-12 for 40 yards.
With the game on the line, the better quarterback had the better final quarter.
Both waited until the second drive of the quarter to rally his respective team.
Romo led the lone Cowboys scoring drive midway through the quarter. A pass to Murray was followed by a 17-yard run. After a 34-yarder to Laurent Robinson, Romo hit Ogletree with a perfectly timed 12-yard pass, putting the Cowboys at the Patriots 10-yard line.
Romo dumped one off to Murray for five yards. After throwing a bad incompletion to Bryant, Romo thought he could trick the Patriots with a shovel pass to Murray.
Wrong. The Patriots stuffed Murray and the Cowboys had to settle for a field goal.
Brady worked his late-game magic and took the Patriots on a game-winning touchdown drive. Brady was 8-for-9 on the drive for 78 yards.
Brady made two great passes to Danny Woodhead over the middle deep in the Cowboys territory. One would have thought that the Cowboys wouldn't have been fooled the second time. Woodhead took it easily anyway.
Brady found Hernandez in the end zone for the score with 22 seconds left.
Romo couldn't make the quick comeback score. He connected with Robinson and Witten to put the Cowboys in Patriots territory. However, with seven seconds left, Romo couldn't connect with Bryant on the Hail Mary. With zeroes on the clock, Romo was cooked.
Brady led the Patriots for the game-winner in the clutch, garnering his 32nd game-winning touchdown.
Romo could have had at least one touchdown that quarter, but he couldn't finish the job. Romo was 10-for-17 for 133 yards in the quarter. Brady was 10-for-14 for 115 yards.
Overall Edge: Brady
While Romo totaled 26 more passing yards and had one less interception, Brady won the showdown.
Brady was the victor, and he came with the better game in the clutch. Brady finished his drives better than Romo did. Romo let Dan Bailey do the scoring more than he needed to.
Some quarterbacks can be counted upon to come through in the clutch. Brady is the man to lead a team in the fourth quarter. Sometimes Romo is that guy, and sometimes he isn't.
Romo wasn't able to do it on Sunday. As seen on Sunday, Romo isn't the best at Hail Mary tosses, nor is he great at leading long drives in 30 seconds or less. Romo could have run two plays in those final seven seconds, but his modus operandi was to put up one big toss.
Romo has one more 300-yard game to his name. On the other hand, Brady has one more comeback victory to his name.