ARLINGTON, Texas– The Cowboys came into Monday night's contest against the Bears boasting the No. 1 ranked defense in terms of yards allowed. Through three games, offenses struggled to score on the Dallas defense. However, Chicago found other ways to put points on the board.
Included in Romo's nightmare five-interception game were two picks that were returned for touchdowns by Bears defenders. Both plays came at critical points of the game.
Romo's first interception of the night was the result of a miscommunication between he and Dez Bryant in the second quarter. Bryant ran straight down the field and Romo, thinking Bryant would stop after a few yards, threw the ball directly to cornerback Charles Tillman who returned it 25 yards for the Bears' first touchdown of the game.
It was unclear whether or not Bryant ran the wrong route or Romo simply made a mistake. When asked about the play, Bryant simply credited the awareness of Tillman.
"You just have to give credit to the defensive back," Bryant said. "We thought that he was going and he stopped and he played it and he just made a good play on it."
Bryant also vaguely explained that when the Bears switched coverage, Romo wanted to switch the route, but Bryant did not react.
"It was like a press man and it went to a zone," Bryant said. "If he's man up I was supposed to convert, and if he backed off I was supposed to keep it on. (Tillman) just made a good play."
Head coach Jason Garrett put it in much simpler terms.
"Dez saw it one way and Tony saw it the other way."
The miscommunication between quarterback and receiver led to an easy interception for the Bears. The ball was headed for Tillman the second it left Romo's hand. In fact, Tillman explained that he had so much time to think about it that he was afraid he would drop it.
"I think when quarterbacks throw the ball like that, that's probably one of the hardest plays in football because it takes so long and you are thinking like, 'All right, all right, oh, oh, don't drop it! Don't! OK, I got it.'"
Later, with the Bears leading the game 17-7 in the third quarter and the Cowboys driving the field, Romo stepped up in the pocket to avoid pressure and his attempted flip to tight end Jason Witten was knocked directly into the hands of linebacker Lance Briggs. Briggs ran the ball back 74 yards for a touchdown, extending the lead to 24-7.
Needless to say, a team cannot allow two defensive touchdowns and expect to win. It simply asks too much of the defense. Not only that, but it forced the Cowboys to play from behind and, as a result, basically give up on the running game. The team only rushed the ball 14 times compared to 53 passing attempts.
Garrett claimed that it was the turnovers that defined the night and led to the blowout loss.
"I think the story of the game was the turnovers," Garrett said. "There's no question about that."
The interceptions brought back memories from almost exactly a year ago against the Detroit Lions on Oct. 2, 2011. In a game that the Cowboys led 27-3 at one point, Romo threw two consecutive interceptions that were returned for touchdowns by the Lions defense. The Cowboys eventually lost, 34-30.
Similar to Monday's game, the Lions outcome last season took place prior to a bye week, leaving a bitter taste in the mouth of Romo, the Cowboys and their fans whose team sat at 2-2.
It will be a long 13 days until the Cowboys next game, but the team will need the time to work on the timing of its offense in order to limit turnovers, as its next challenge will be against perhaps an even tougher defense in the Baltimore Ravens.
Romo has often been known as a "high risk/high reward" quarterback. Monday night there was not nearly enough reward. But to Romo's credit, he took full responsibility for his mistakes and plans to right them moving forward.
"I'm going to have to reassess a couple of things that are happening and make sure that they don't happen again," Romo said. "We just have to make a conscious effort to make sure and control that aspect, and saying that I can't try to do too much. I think that I tried to do that tonight, and going forward, I just have to do my job and I will."