IRVING, Texas – With 24 hours to digest the game film, I decided to take a look at Tony Romo's first interception against the Packers – the fateful second down that led to Green Bay's winning score.
The clock showed 2:58 in the game with the Cowboys facing a 2nd and 6 from their own 35-yard line and holding on to a five-point lead. Jason Garrett and Bill Callahan send their "12" personnel onto the field with Jason Witten and Gavin Escobar as the tight ends.
Miles Austin is wide left and Terrence Williams is in a bunch formation with Witten and Escobar on the right. The Packers have 10 defenders within six yards of the ball.
Dez Bryant would have normally been the "X" in this formation, but he was on the sideline with an injury after making the 3rd and 13 reception. So Austin took his spot as Romo brought them to the line. What Romo sees is that the Packers have sold out with their run defense, and there is no safety in the middle of the field. Sam Shields is lined up inside of Austin and Romo sees this.
Before I continue, I want to go back to the first play of the drive, which was a deep ball to Dez Bryant along the left side. On the snap, Clay Matthews crashes hard down inside to chase the play as Romo makes a play fake to Murray going to his right. Romo settles in the middle of the pocket, delivering the ball down the field to Bryant but the play goes incomplete.
What I am curious about, and I asked Jason Garrett about this: if, when Romo checked out of the run on 2nd and 6 to throw the slant, did he feel like Matthews was once again going to crash down inside to give him the lane to throw the ball?
"They are going to gamble -- they are going to do everything they can to get the ball back," Garrett said. "I didn't ask him specifically if he saw that, but that is what they going to do in those kinds of situations." [embedded_ad]
At the snap, Matthews rushes up the field right at Romo, instead of going down the line like he did on the first play of the series. Austin is able to get Sam Shields turned and breaks inside, but Romo has a face full of Matthews and he is able to escape, moving to his left.
Romo's body is moving to the left, and, on the throw, the momentum takes the ball toward Shields, who is able to drive in front of Austin for the interception. If Romo was able to set his feet and throw the ball in front of Austin, it is going to be a touchdown and we would all be talking about the aggressive check by Tony Romo that would have sealed this game.
Instead, we are talking about another gut-wrenching defeat.