IRVING, Texas– Cowboys fans don't need any help remembering the fateful fourth down that defined the playoff loss to Green Bay in January.
As clear as one's memory might be, however, it probably isn't as clear – or as insightful – as Tony Romo's. The Cowboys quarterback sat down for an extended interview with 105.3 The Fan on Tuesday afternoon, and one topic of conversation centered on his final snap of the 2014-15 season.
The Cowboys trailed 26-21 with just under five minutes to play. They had driven from their own 18-yard line, but they now faced a 4th-and-2 from the Green Bay 32.
That's where Romo's recollection kicked in – just before the snap of one of the controversial plays in recent NFL history:
"So most of the game, they had been doubling Dez, and they were in a position where even when they didn't, they would hide it well and they'd come off late. So we started to get to that a little bit and understand what they were conceptually trying to do.
What happened then was we went to an empty formation. So it's a big play in the game, we went to an empty formation. So you've got a lot of different reads. At a point earlier in the game, I end up throwing the ball to Terrance on a spread-out formation – I think we had a running back in on that play – but he ends up scoring a touchdown. He's not the first read on that play, but it was based on the configuration, not that dissimilar from what this one is.
They try and hide the same coverage, which turns into what we call a Cover Zero – so it's an all-out pressure. But they hide it by the safeties being a little lower, like they're going to help and double people. Well, you can tell by the mannerisms of some of the linebackers and the nickel cornerbacks that they're coming after you. In that process, my initial thought right in that moment was 'I'm not going to be able to hold onto the ball.' So you have to get it out, it's got to go somewhere – you can't just go through progression and read.
At the moment, I said 'I have three options on the play. Cole has a route that's very quick, Witten has a route that's very fast and Dez has a go route.' Now, the go route is dicey, because it's 4th-annd-2 – you just need two yards, you can throw the ball to anybody on the field.
The problem is, in that moment as I'm getting ready to throw the ball, I think Cole and I think Jason, but I want to look at the leverage of the players that are on them, that are going to guard that aren't coming. When I look at it, it's bad leverage – in other words, they're going to have to take an extra two steps to get past that.
So in that moment, I say 'I wanted the two yards, but it's going to be real dicey. It's going to be one of those bang-bang type of slants that their inside leverage, our guy is not.' I can't adjust that with the route this late in the count as I'm about to snap the ball. So I say 'Hey, it's one-on-one. Dez hasn't gotten this but three times the whole game. It's our season on the line, so let's do what we do.' You give him a chance, and he went up and made the play. Obviously, we didn't get the call."