Monday, May 25, 2015

Email Bag: Romo's Play of the Year

In lieu of this week's Cowboys mailbag, I have elected to offer a thorough, well researched answer for one email, rather than many short answers for many emails.

I had to make a call, but I hope you are ok with the outcome.  Here is the email:

Dear Sportssturm, 
Given that the catch in Green Bay was recorded in the history books as nothing more than an incomplete pass and a turnover on downs, I was hoping you could look over the near-MVP season of Tony Romo and select his best play of the season.  I have my ideas, but I want to see what you came up with if you were asked to produce a single play to demonstrate his quality.   
Ok.  This is a good one, Roger.  

I have selected 3 plays from 2014.  Of course, he had dozens of great plays in this 2014 season, but many of them were based on him playing an incredibly sound decision-making season.  That means, he did not have to do magic tricks and gun slinging on a regular basis.  He made his read and made great throws, but did so in a clinical sort of precise way.  

But, that doesn't mean he didn't have to do crazy things at times.  What is particularly amazing is that I thought his 3 best magic tricks were all in an 8-day span back in October.  Forgive me if I am missing a good one or two.  

What is also interesting about these 3 plays in 2 games was that it was at a place in the season where some of us - at least I was chief amongst this group - were closely studying his every move as a sign that his back had healed and he could resume being a functional, upper tier, NFL QB again.  At the time, it was certainly unclear as he spent most of September doing very few things that appeared to risk his body.  

But, then these 3 plays happened and he removed all doubt about his abilities.

Let's review the 3 plays in the order they happened (with what I wrote the week of each of these games) and then we can all vote:

Candidate #1 - Vs Houston - 3Q - 3:14 - 2/4/43 - Romo to Williams, 43 yards, Touchdown

The Cowboys are in Shotgun 11 personnel, with double WRs to the Right with Williams wide and Bryant in the slot. Witten is tight on the right tackle, with Devin Street out left by himself. Meanwhile, the Texans are starting to get antsy and are showing a blitz look with 6 across the front, but as they normally do, the LBs drop off at the snap into the shallow zones. The Texans are basically only bringing 3, with a 4th coming on a delayed blitz depending on what the Cowboys do at the snap.

Romo appeared to have some sort of pump and go to the right, but the play appeared destroyed at the snap. To run a pump and go, Romo needs time, but when JJ Watt blew past Tyron Smith at the snap without Tyron barely getting out of his stance, Watt has a chance to drill a QB who has back issues from the blindside. There is no telling what might be the result of a QB who is looking to his right, trusting his All-Pro left tackle to protect his backside, and waiting for a play to develop. Smith had no help, because he never needs help. But, this time he needed it badly.

What happened next was amazing, and yet, if you have watched every Tony Romo snap of his career, you have seen it no less than a dozen times (just not that often recently). Somehow, Romo felt what was about to hit him from behind. If you watch the replay, you will marvel at how Romo knew JJ Watt was bearing down on him. It must have been something he heard, because it is difficult to say it was anything he saw. Regardless, with Watt having a free run at a QB with a bad back, Romo pulled out his text book, blind-spin back against the grain to his own end zone and then off to the offensive left. Watt who surely was 100% certain he had the sack got both hands on Romo but rolled past when the QB was able to shake him off. Now, Romo had bought just another second as Danieal Manning was bearing down on him from the delayed blitz. Romo lets a throw go deep down the field where Williams is running a deep post pattern against Kendrick Lewis. The throw hits Williams right in the chest as Romo watches from the ground.


The biggest question out of that play has been whether JJ Watt jumped the snap illegally, or was he simply that fast? I have slowed it down and I think his anticipation is DeMarcus Ware-like. It looks offsides to the naked eye. But, partly with Romo having a snap count that doesn't vary much and even the silent count on Sunday, I think Watt was guessing and guessed so correctly that Tyron Smith hardly even moves before he is gone. Amazing.

The other point is that once Tyron got beat so badly, he sort of checked out of the play as Manning runs right by him to have another free run at Romo. Come on, Tyron. I know you don't get beat much, but when you do, try to limit the damage!


Candidate #2 - Vs Houston - OT - 10:09 - 3/8/D32 - Romo deep to Bryant +37 yards, TD

Same game, which was very lose-able.  This is in overtime and at the moment, it looks like they are headed for a tie or loss if they don't pull this play off.

Again, the Cowboys brought in Shotgun 11 with a 3x1 look, but this time, it was Dez off by himself on the left. And this time, the Texans once again rushed 6. That left DJ Swearinger with a free run at Romo after Murray had to get Brian Cushing on the blitz pickup. Romo had to contort his body to make the throw while falling to avoid the hard-hitting safety, but he put the ball far enough down the field to give Dez a chance on a stop and go route against the very good corner, Johnathan Joseph.

What Dez did next might be his finest catch ever when you consider what was at stake combined with the degree of difficulty. He jumped high enough to get over Joseph, but the corner's arm was right in the middle of the hands of Dez, who somehow held onto the tip off the ball and then pulled it off of Joseph's shoulder as they both hit the turf. If you had to choose between which play was more amazing, the Romo twirl or the Dez catch, you might split the audience 50/50.

Romo's "bailing" here is called self-preservation or "smart". That DB in particular would have happily ended Romo's afternoon and the Cowboys need to be ready for that pressure next time. Travis Frederick had no feel for what was happening and he went to help on Watt which seemed like a good idea at first. And Murray should be credited with another perfect blitz pick-up with Cushing, something he does nearly every time.


Candidate #3 - At Seattle - 4Q - 4:55 - 3/20/D31 - Romo to Williams, +23, FD

Behold, for the 3rd time in 2 weeks, we have a "Play of the Year" candidate.

If they don't get this play converted, they have to punt, down 23-20 with less than 5 minutes to go. To convert this is vital and quite possibly the ball game. The Cowboys are in max-protection, with Witten and Murray in protection until they can slide out and get in a late route.

Bryant is out left, Williams wide right, with Gavin Escobar in the right slot and Witten tight to Free to help if necessary.

This is one of those cases where the All-22 is actually worse than TV, but you can definitely see below what Romo was looking at. I think the key point of strategy to look at is DeMarco's poor chip on 51-Bruce Irvin. If he is going to "assist" Tyron, then he has to make sure he actually knocks Irvin back to where Tyron can take over. In this case, his chip doesn't really move Irvin off his path at all, and also he gets in Tyron's way. Bad combination. They would have been better without any chip at all.

But, now Irvin, a rusher with incredible speed, has Romo in his sights - once again from the blindside. How Romo feels that, spins out, and then stays alive is a story. The fact that he then converts a 3rd and 20 (something that the league does less than 10% of the time even when conditions are ideal) is nothing short of miraculous. Then, Williams awareness and technique to complete the catch in bounds... Wow.

There is some question about who Romo was throwing this ball to, but I feel this angle proves that it was Williams and that he might not have even seen Witten since he knows Witten is not on a route long enough to move the sticks. You cannot imagine how fast this is happening in real-time as the Seahawks rushers and your linemen are all swirling around as you try to make this play.

I have watched this play dozens of times and it doesn't get any less impressive with each viewing. Romo is a special talent who appears to have the ability to still make plays that most QBs wouldn't even attempt.


So, mirror, mirror, on the wall, which of those 3 plays was the fairest of them all?  

I think I will take the 3rd and 20 in Seattle.  But, let's not sleep on any of them.  He had a truly special year and these 3 plays are a testament to his game still being at the top of his abilities.  

A Review of Another 21-Day Body Makeover

Perhaps by now you have heard me talk periodically about my strides for health and wellness.

That's right.  I am that guy who always admires the dude who is in the best shape of his life.  At least, I admire the end without fully admiring the process.

I make the resolutions that this is the first day of the rest of my life and vow that this time will be different.

Well, I have really made strides over time.  As someone who hardly lifted a finger after I stopped playing sports regularly, I started running back regularly in 2002 and never stopped.  15 miles a week since my daughter was born and since she turns 13 this July, I am proud of that.  I knocked out the White Rock Marathon in 2004 and that picture hangs on my wall.  Even beat Oprah's time by over 5 minutes!

But, aging continues.  Metabolism slows.  Schedule accelerates, diet diminishes.  Changes of getting older in this fast paced world has led me to George DiGianni.

I have known George since I moved to Dallas.  He is a guy who helps a lot of people.  He offered to help me for a long time to really commit to changes in my health since he could sense I was one of those people that was willing to step over the line if I had a slight nudge.  In 2006, I tried his 21-day program which is essentially a body makeover that is all about Detoxification and Fat loss.  You run yourself through a rather strict eating program and exercise at a reasonable level every day and you emerge on the other side 3 weeks later feeling like a new man.

I have done it every year since and just did it again.  Now, the program gets better all the time as he is trying to figure out how to improve each element.  Over the many years I have done it, he has certainly figured out how to fine-tune the eating program (much easier than it was back then!) and make your workouts more efficient.  The supplements are better and the shakes are quite delicious now (not always the case in 2006!).

But, check out the best part of this - now, in 2015, the price has dropped substantially!  He has knocked $100 off the price, all the way down to $197.  That is fantastic news for me - and I am guessing, you, too.  Click Here for all of the details and to get started.

Here are some of the details of my report:

The 21 days only requires you to buy-in mentally. If you do, everything in the plan is simple. The eating is great - provided you follow the recipes and have committed to it. I actually look forward to the eating program because it is clean foods and clean eating. I have seen a few who were not committed and they just won't get the results if they are looking to cheat here and there or make too many exceptions. I challenge anyone to really sell out to make this work. If you do, the results will be there.

Basically, follow the road map for 21 days with food, your tasty morning shake, your tablets, and your exercise.

Exercise? Yes. You simply must make your body work to get results, but you already know that by looking in the mirror, right?

This time, in the 21 days, I dropped down 12 pounds and could really tell the midsection transformation where, honestly, age has taken its toll.

I was sleeping better again and having more energy. I am telling you, it works every time.

Now, I know what you are saying. Bob, if it works so well, why do you allow yourself to ride the roller coaster where you need to keep doing it each year?

Well, 2 things. #1 - I think doing this program annually is not a bad plan for many other reasons besides weight loss. I think the supplements do in many ways reset your body to optimal conditions, just like going to the dentist for an annual cleaning helps keep your teeth healthy. I think the results say to do it for many reasons beyond weight loss and I will continue to do so indefinitely.

But, #2 - you are right. Why do I ride this roller coaster of weight?  Thankfully, the last 12 months have represented big changes for me on that front.  I kept eating better and better during the weeks (healthy lunches were the key for me - sorry, guys, but I opted out of the radio show lunch rotation) and therefore did not give back my progress.  I still enjoy great foods, but my moderation is helping.

So there you have it.  George likes me to write a brief report each year and I am happy to do it.  I believe in his program - not because he is a friend, but because it works for me.  Maybe you might find similar results.

Now, the price is down 33%.  Here is his website and I am telling you, I have done it - many times - and enjoy the results.  My wife does it, too.   Take a chance and see if it works for you.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Xs and Os archive from 2014 Season

Here is a list of all of the times we had Xs and Os studies in the 2014 season.

at Green Bay Divisional Playoff - Game #18

Xs and Os - The Three Biggest Plays Of the Game - Kickoff fumble, Rodgers TD, 4th and 2

Defense - Cowboys living and then dying by their blitz

Offense - Questioning the Offensive decision making at end of each half

Morning After - The Moments that ended the run.

Detroit Wildcard Game - Game #17

Xs and Os - Pass Protection vs Blitz, Romo's Game Winning TD

Defense - Late Game Pass Rush When You need it Most

Offense - Garrett rolling the dice on 4th down (1st time ever)

at Washington - Game #16

Defense - Comparing 2015 season statistics to 2014

Offense - 1st and 10 runs, Romo passing less, winning more

Indianapolis - Game #15

Xs and Os - Romo hits Witten down seam with safeties watching Dez, Randle in pass pro

Defense - Sacks of zone blitzes

Offense - The sustainable, repeatable offense runs on 1st down no matter what

at Philadelphia - Game #14

Xs and Os - When they needed it most, the Cowboys had their drive of the season

Defense - Being ahead causes takeaways, team's record when 2 takeaways +

Offense - The Eagles thought single coverage on Dez would work.  Wrong.

at Chicago - Game #13

Xs and Os - Romo's big throw, Beasley circus TD, Church blows coverage

Defense - The defense is unable to get sacks

Offense - The near perfect attendance of the offensive line

Philadelphia - Game #12 - Thanksgiving

Defense - Broken assignments help the Eagles run for over 250 yards

Offense - The offense has a 3rd down slump that is disturbing

at New York - Game #11

Defense - Rolando McClain's finest game with the Cowboys, preparing for Chip Kelly

Offense - The Cowboys have been beating the blitz out of defenses

Bye Week

Xs and Os - Bye Week Edition - Tyrone Crawford is a Beast.

Offense - Decoding Linehan - Season to Date trends - 3rd Downs and Rushing

at Jacksonville (London) - Game #10

Xs and Os - Ground and Pound, Zone and Man blocking out of 12 personnel

Defense - Anthony Hitchens, Opposing QB Ratings vs Blitz

Offense - The Dez Bryant Show that was unleashed on London

Arizona - Game #9

Xs and Os - Defensive Line stunts for sacks and 4th and 1 failure

Defense - Allowing too many TDs and Tyler Patmon

Offense - Trying to win a game with a backup QB in Dallas

Washington - Game #8

Xs and Os - Romo is sacked over and over and over again.  Then, hurt.

Defense - The Colt McCoy QB Draw and Mincey's Big Sack

Offense - Washington's attack of the Dallas 3rd Down package, zone/man runs

Giants - Game #7

Xs and Os - Inside Zone Demolition, Romo on 3rd Down to Witten and Bryant

Defense - Mincey loses contain, Marinelli loses his mind.  Rolando McClain

Offense - Romo's mastery of situational football, Gavin Escobar's big day

at Seahawks - Game #6

Xs and Os - Punt Blocked, Pulling Guards, and Romo to Williams on 3rd and 20

Defense - Staying off the field, Containing Wilson, Closing the Deal

Offense - The Cowboys winning drive was 22 personnel ground and pound, G Power

Houston - Game #5

Xs and Os - JJ Watt beats Tyron Smith many times, but does not destroy the game

Defense -  Zone blitzes, JJ Wilcox, and the Cowboys 8-man deep

Offense - Romo wins the game with 2 ridiculous plays and 1 insane Dez catch

New Orleans - Game #4

Xs and Os - Tyrone Crawford, Cowboys run the same play twice, and Durant INT

Defense - The 2014 and 2013 defenses through September - identical

Offense - 10 yard runs, a coaching clinic zone run

At St Louis - Game #3

Xs and Os - Dez Bryant - a fantastic decoy and the Janoris Jenkins Pick 6

Defense -  Anthony Hitchens and Bruce Carter both make huge plays

Offense - Play Action Fake to Dez over the top TD

At Tennessee - Game #2

Xs and Os - Pulling Tyron, 3rd Down Work, Who busted on Delanie Walker TD?

Defense - Sterling Moore, takeaways, and 3rd Down defense

Offense - Time to get worried about Romo?  Counting the Box

San Francisco - Game #1

Xs and Os - Pirate stunt gets Romo, The OL was pretty good, Coverage bust on Vernon

Defense - The debut of Rolando McClain, Opponent's YPA

Offense - The frustrating Run/Pass Option Romo Decisions, 4 Giveaway Games