Tony Romo looked physically off when he threw three interceptions during Sunday’s 28-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, but the Cowboys need to wonder if it's correctable.
First INT: FS Eric Reid
Dallas had 12 personnel against San Francisco’s 3-4 front and Cover-3 zone. On the snap, Reid crashed on the play fake, leaving a linebacker in one-on-one coverage with wide receiver Dez Bryant on a crossing route. Romo saw this develop before he finished his drop and Bryant was wide open. By the time the throw arrived, though, Reid had recovered and retreated ten yards to intercept.
Romo’s release was about as quick as usual, but he seemed slow — almost lazy — from the end of his drop to his throw.
On the throw, Romo also lacked the zip he usually displays. He didn’t step into the throw, despite a clean pocket, but it still looked weak compared to his throws last year. Quicker set and stronger throw, and he connects for at least 15 yards.
Second INT: LB Patrick Willis
Dallas came out in 11 personnel with Dwayne Harris as the lone strong-side wide receiver. San Francisco countered in Big Nickel, and shows Cover-1 man. The strong safety was in the box keying on Jason Witten, which left Dwayne Harris against cornerback Perrish Cox and no safety help. Even though the cornerback opposite Harris shaded inside to play the slant, Harris was still the first read with the free safety covering the weak side.
Romo brought the linebackers and strong safety up to the line of scrimmage with a play fake and Cox protected against a back-shoulder fade (falling down in the process), leaving Harris streaking toward the goal post about as wide open as it gets. For some reason, Romo looked away from the wide-open Harris toward Jason Witten who was blanketed by the strong safety. The pocket collapsed, forcing Romo to roll toward the sideline where four Niners defenders were covering Witten and Harris.
Romo tried to thread the needle to Witten, but instead hit linebacker Patrick Willis with a perfect strike. If Romo’s throw were about five yards deeper, he might have completed it to Witten. Romo clearly made the wrong read when he looked away from Harris, but the short throw is worrisome.
Third INT: CB Perrish Cox
Dallas was in a heavy run formation with 13 personnel and SF aligned in a 3-4 front, showing Cover-1 man. At the end of Romo’s drop, Eric Reid was covering Dez Bryant one-on-one down the seam outside. Cox appeared to be in bracket coverage on Jason Witten along with Patrick Willis, but peeled off and ran down the seam to double Bryant.
As Cox peeled off Witten, Romo unnecessarily reset his feet. If he threw right away instead of resetting, he had Dez Bryant one-one-one against a safety before Cox could catch up. That’s a matchup Dallas will take any time.
Instead, the extra 2-3 seconds Romo took gave Cox a chance to catch up. Bryant still had a half step, though, and a longer throw would have given them a chance for a completion. Instead, the short, late throw resulted in an interception.
Tony Romo made some bad decisions Sunday, but two weren't as bad as they looked on first watch.
I would be mildly concerned by some of the decisions Romo made, but I'd be significantly more concerned with Romo's loss of arm strength. Are age and injury catching up to Romo, or did it just look that way because the opposing quarterback was throwing 30-yard lasers off his back foot?
Either way, Tony Romo can't have his gunslinger approach without a gunslinger arm. This is something to watch going forward.