If you buy into perception, the NFL season opener features one of the league’s elite clutch quarterbacks and one of its worst choke artists.
In Eli Manning’s case, perception is reality.
In Tony Romo’s case, perception is wrong.
There is no denying that Manning has earned his reputation as one of the NFL’s clutch kings. He’s had 25 game-winning drives in his career, including five in the playoffs and a pair to claim Super Bowl rings. According to research done by ColdHardFootballFacts.com, Tim Tebow, Tom Brady and Matt Ryan are the only active quarterbacks with better winning percentages than Manning (.510) in potential game-winning drive situations.
But the popular belief that Romo usually fades in the fourth quarter is just foolish.
Fact: Romo has the highest fourth-quarter passer rating among active quarterbacks. And it’s not even close. His 102.1 rating is more than five points higher than the second man on the list, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers.
Romo has had some high-profile fourth-quarter failures – last season’s opener at MetLife Stadium stands out – but you can’t look at the numbers and call that a trend. He has completed 63.4 percent of his passes for 5,819 yards (8.7 per attempt) and 44 touchdowns with 18 interceptions in fourth quarters during his career.
Those numbers compare favorably with those put up by Manning, even though Manning set an NFL record with 15 fourth-quarter touchdown passes last season. Manning’s career fourth-quarter passer rating: 84.6.
Of course, the Giants will feel great if the game comes down to a drive engineered by Eli.
But the Cowboys will have plenty of confidence if Romo has the ball in his hands at winning time, too.