Tony Romo looked good again on Friday night, spreading the ball around and hitting seven different receivers for 192 yards in a half of football. This, in itself, is not surprising.
What's remarkable, sort of, is that Romo didn't throw a pass for more than twenty yards, not counting a checkdown to Felix Jones that the sophomore tailback took for 42 yards. Outside of that play, Romo's longest successful attempt was to Jason Witten for 19 yards, in a performance that was ripe with checkdowns, screens and short dump-offs to running backs.
This balanced display could be a positive harbinger, but, as Tim MacMahon at the DMN Cowboys Blog points out, the deep threat must remain in some capacity, lest Dallas' rushing attack--to which the team has vocally made a newfound commitment--face a defense on a smaller plane; that is, a defense without fear of being burned deep is going to load up the box and make life hell for ball carriers.
But for Romo, and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, this is no great worry, a byproduct of ephemeral circumstances and not the absence of a certain former receiver with ample career numbers and a hurt big toe.
"It's not hard to throw it downfield or throw it short," Romo said after Friday's win. "The whole part is just figuring out what they are trying to give up, and when you figure that out you try and take it."
Garrett added, "You just like to see execution, whether it's a play down the field or whether it's a running play or throwing it underneath, you just like to see guys, 'hey, they did this, we need to respond like this, throw and catch, hit the hole this way or that way.'"
If we're to believe Romo and Garrett, that Dallas' offense still has the capacity to hit the occasional home run, this much overdue commitment to adaptation is a certain positive. Because that was an aspect at which Dallas failed miserably at times in 2008.
"I've said this before, but each play is...its own play," Romo continued. "We don't think about the situations as much, or things [like that], you just execute the play, what the defense gives you. And if you keep doing that, you have a chance to continue to move down the field in whatever fashion they want to give us to exploit, I guess.
"[Friday night] was just taking what they give us."
Let's just hope that if a defense gives up the long ball--and given Dallas' ostensible reliance on the two tight end set and an amped up running game in 2009, this is a probability--they have the hardware to take that, too.