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Saturday, November 3, 2012
Tony Romo INT responsibility tracker

By Tim MacMahon

IRVING, Texas -- The Tony Romo interception blame game has become part of the Cowboys postgame analysis.

Romo leads the league in interceptions and excuses made for him. Sure, he has 13 picks, but Jason Garrett tells us over and over again that turnovers are a team statistic.

“Ultimately all interceptions fall on the guy who lets go of the ball,” Romo said. “It’s on your record. It's there for everyone to see. So you understand that. I also understand that you can make a really good play and it can turn out poorly. That's part of playing the position.”

In other words, he’s not the problem on some of the picks. He’s had a receiver run the wrong route or a sloppy route, a ball ricochet off a receiver, poor protection, etc. Then again, Romo has also made bad situations much worse with poor decisions under duress, so the fault falls at his feet at least as much as his offensive line’s on those occasions.

Here’s a pick-by-pick breakdown that includes a opinion on how much responsibility Romo should bear for each interception (scale of 1 to 10):

INTERCEPTION 1 (Giants LB Michael Boley): Romo made a hurried, careless throw and never appeared to see Boley while trying to hit Kevin Ogletree across the middle on third-and-8 in a scoreless game. Justin Tuck caused this interception by pushing center Ryan Cook all the way back into Romo, who was off balance and moving to his left as he threw the ball.
Romo responsibility: 7

INTERCEPTION 2 (Seahawks CB Brandon Browner): Romo commits a cardinal sin for a quarterback, throwing the ball across his body into the middle of the field while under pressure. He wanted to hit Miles Austin on a slant to the right, but the Seahawks fooled Romo by dropping a defensive end into coverage, causing him to hold on to the ball after beginning the throwing motion. The play broke down from there, with blitzing inside linebacker Bobby Wagner breaking free up the middle after being blocked by DeMarco Murray. Romo throws across his body and off his back foot, trying to hit Jason Witten on a crossing route in heavy traffic. Browner comes off Dez Bryant, who was running a slant in the other direction, to make the pick. The play, which occurred on second-and-10 from the Seattle 24, costs the Cowboys at least an opportunity to kick a field goal.
Romo responsibility: 9

INTERCEPTION 3 (Buccaneers CB Aqib Talib): Talib reads Romo’s eyes and jumps a curl route to Miles Austin, who was operating out of the slot while Talib covered Dez Bryant outside. Bryant also ran a curl route about five yards from Austin, which meant he either made a mental mistake or this was a poorly designed play. Romo called Bryant over for a discussion on the sideline, suggesting it was the former. Nevertheless, Romo didn’t help matters by staring down Austin.
Romo responsibility: 5

INTERCEPTION 4 (Bears CB Charles Tillman): Tillman baited Bryant into a mistake on a hot route with the Bears bringing the blitz from that side. Bryant’s assignment in that situation is to run a go against press coverage or a stop against off coverage. Tillman showed press but bailed before the snap. Having to throw the ball quickly, Romo made the right read, but Bryant kept running upfield, resulting in an easy pick six for the savvy Bears corner.
Romo responsibility: 1

INTERCEPTION 5 (Bears safety Major Wright): Kevin Ogletree served as a volleyball-style setter, allowing the ball to bounce off his shoulder pads into Wright’s hands several yards downfield. Romo put the ball where it was supposed to be on a slant. Ogletree, who got hit by cornerback Tim Jennings as the ball arrived, didn’t do his job.
Romo responsibility: 1

INTERCEPTION 6 (Bears LB Lance Briggs): This was a classic case of Romo making bad worse. Defensive tackle Henry Melton beat right guard Mackenzy Bernadeau for what should have been a sack. Romo tried to make a miracle happen on first-and-10 from the Chicago 27 with the Cowboys trailing by 10. Romo attempted to shovel the ball to Witten over the middle, but Melton deflected the ball while bringing Romo down. Briggs accepts the gift and races untouched for a touchdown that essentially killed the Cowboys’ comeback hopes with more than six minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Romo responsibility: 7

INTERCEPTION 7 (Bears CB D.J. Moore): With the Cowboys in desperate comeback mode, Romo tries to force a throw downfield to a well-covered Austin on a skinny post. Moore had perfect position inside Austin and made an easy pick.
Romo responsibility: 10

INTERCEPTION 8 (Wright): With the Cowboys in even more desperate comeback mode, Romo throws a prayer to Ogletree on a go route despite a corner having good coverage and Wright playing the deep half of the field. Wright broke on the ball to make an easy pick. It was Romo’s last throw of the night, tying his career high with five interceptions.
Romo responsibility: 10

INTERCEPTION 9 (Ravens cornerback Cary Williams): Romo commits the same cardinal sin he did against Seattle, throwing a ball across his body over the middle while under pressure. After feeling pressure coming up the middle, Romo rolls right and tries to hit Ogletree on a crossing route going the opposite direction. Romo, who was hit by linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, overthrows Ogletree to Williams to make the interception after coming off of his man. If Romo throws the ball away, the Cowboys could have attempted a 52-yard field goal the next play, possibly giving them a lead with about two minutes remaining in the first half.
Romo responsibility: 9

INTERCEPTION 10 (Giants safety Stevie Brown): Romo tries to hit Bryant on an intermediate crossing route, but Bryant runs a sloppy route, allowing Brown to break in front of him. Bryant said he came out of his break off-balance, so he wasn’t able to flatten out the route as it’s designed to be run. Romo confronts Bryant immediately after the play. Even if Bryant runs his route correctly, it’s a somewhat risky throw with a ballhawk like Brown roaming in the area.
Romo responsibility: 3

INTERCEPTION 11 (Giants cornerback Corey Webster): Romo throws a deep ball up for grabs when he sees Webster alone on Austin. The throw is outside, where Webster was positioned, but Austin did a poor job of fighting for the ball. If Austin can’t catch it, he needs to at least make it tough for Webster to make a play on the ball.
Romo responsibility: 5

INTERCEPTION 12 (Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul): This was a freakish display of athleticism by Pierre-Paul. He sniffed out the swing pass, stopped his pass rush and made a leaping pick that he returned for the touchdown. Romo’s biggest mistake here was throwing the ball to Felix Jones in the first place. He had Jason Witten wide open on the option route that the Giants couldn’t stop all game.
Romo responsibility: 10

INTERCEPTION 13 (Brown): Romo had to go with the chunk-and-hope strategy on fourth-and-1 with nobody open and three Giants in his face while he scrambled with the Cowboys trailing by five late in the game. Brown, who was double-covering Witten on the play, caught the ball in front of Witten on the sideline.
Romo responsibility: 1