Fairly or unfairly, Tony Romo’s career has been synonymous with failure. Monday, he painted his latest dreadful masterpiece.
At home in a nationally televised game against one of the few teams as consistently embattled as Jerry Jones’ Cowboys, Romo threw five interceptions in a performance that could go down as his clunker masterwork. His “Mona Lisa,” his “Sistine Chapel,” his...”Waterworld.”
Because like nearly every other Romo dud, there was greatness interspersed with the darkness. Of his 43 passes, only 12 fell incomplete. He threw for 307 yards, averaging 7.1 yards per attempt in what ended up as his 33rd career 300-yard effort.
But the mistakes were just so manifold and glaring. Yes, Dez Bryant ran the wrong route on Romo’s first pick (six) — a play Jon Gruden called “the easiest score of Charles Tillman’s career” — while INT No. 2 ricocheted off Kevin Ogletree’s hands.
But INT No. 3? Apparently attempting to switch throwing hands in hopes of tossing a Favre-ian shovel pass to Jason Witten, Romo shoveled the ball right to Lance Briggs for what very easily could have been called “the easiest score of Lance Briggs’ career.” Yes, like Tillman, Briggs waltzed to the house.
INT No. 4? Right to D.J. Moore.
INT No. 5? Right to Major Wright.
Romo completed passes to just one fewer Bear (four) than Cowboy (five).
(Writer’s note: Phillip Tanner, Cole Beasley and Andre Holmes’ receptions all came with Kyle Orton under center.)
The five-interception night was the second of Romo’s career, making him the only active quarterback with two five-INT games. Fittingly, both have come on Monday Night Football. It’s always been the big stage where Romo flops the hardest.
It’s true Romo received no help from his teammates in his latest date with infamy. In addition to causing Romo’s first pick, Bryant committed three pathetic drops, marring just the second (!) 100-yard game of his career.
The run game also got no push behind one of the league’s worst and shallowest lines, putting Romo in countless predictable passing situations.
But Romo entered the evening as a 32-year-old, eight-year veteran making his 103rd career start. 32-year-old, eight-year veterans making their 103rd career start simply aren’t supposed to have five-interception nights, no matter the extenuating circumstances.
What looked like it could be a genuinely promising Cowboys season coming off a gritty Week 1 win over the Giants has quickly morphed into “same old Dallas.” And while some will protest otherwise, the blame lies squarest on the shoulders of the quarterback, who entered Week 3 with five turnovers in three games, and exits it with 10 in four.
It Was The Worst of Times, It Was The...Worst of Times
Romo wasn’t the only quarterback having a miserable Monday. 1,550 miles northeast, there was Mark Sanchez receiving his second vote of confidence in as many days from coach Rex Ryan.
"I think (Sanchez) is definitely our guy," Ryan said. "I don't want to get into the what-ifs, this, that or whatever. I just know in my heart, right now, that this is not the time (to change). … I think as competitive as Mark is, I know this is killing him.”
What Sanchez is killing is his team. That may sound harsh. After all, the Jets have no run game, no receiver corps and an owner more concerned with politics than football. But there’s simply no excuse for the fourth-year pro’s play.
Sanchez is completing 49.2 percent of his throws. That’s just 2.7 percent better than Mr. Awful Incompletion himself, Tim Tebow, was in 2011. Sanchez is completing an absurd 50.9 percent of his passes on throws five yards or shorter. Layups, to be exact. As ESPN New York’s Rich Cimini puts it — that stinks.
Tebow is a slow train coming, perhaps as early as Week 6 if Sanchez’s Week 5 start against the Texans goes as poorly as it should on paper. Owners in two-quarterback leagues desperate for a spark would do well to take their flier now.
"The best thing for us in the Kansas City game was to start Jackie Battle and give him a chance to give our offense a chance to get into some rhythm.”
That was Chargers coach Norv Turner on Monday, ignoring reality and insulting your intelligence. Ryan Mathews’ usage — specifically, his lack of it — was the most frustrating fantasy imbroglio of Week 4.
The young man fumbled in his return from a broken collarbone in Week 3, setting the Chargers back in a game against an excellent Falcons team. His first-half touches were then greatly curtailed in Week 4 against a pathetic Chiefs team. In other words, a message was being sent.
Not according to Turner, however. "Everyone thinks it's to send a guy a message," Turner said Monday. "The best thing for us in the Kansas City game was to start Jackie Battle.” It’s a sentence so absurd, it bears repeating. Yes, Turner is referring to the same Jackie Battle that sunk your fantasy team in 2011.
If it looks like a message and smells like a message, it’s a message. Thankfully, it’s a message the Chargers can ill-afford to send for a second straight week, as they're returning to playing competitive football teams, specifically the Saints.
If you’re a fantasy owner, there’s no need to fret. Mathews will be back in a lead role Sunday, and ready to light things up against the league’s (by far) worst run defense. If you’re not a fantasy owner, there’s every need to buy low on a back who should be a top-five runner going forward.
Running Back Quick Slants: Fred Jackson (knee) and C.J. Spiller (shoulder) both emerged from Sunday’s loss without further injury. … Reggie Bush (knee) and Steven Jackson (groin) also escaped from Week 4 unscathed. … Chris Johnson praised his offensive line. Sort of. … Joe McKnight is a running back again. … LeSean McCoy (knee) is experiencing swelling after suffering “a little tweak” on Sunday, but is expected to be fine for Week 5. His status will be updated Wednesday.
Quarterback/Receiver Quick Slants: The Titans are “hopeful” Kenny Britt will play in Week 5 after being “not close” to a return Sunday. … Britt’s quarterback Jake Locker (shoulder) is expected to miss at least one game, but is listed as “day-to-day.” … Laurent Robinson was diagnosed with his third concussion since camp. That’s bad, bad news. … The Jets are awaiting a second opinion on Santonio Holmes’ foot. He’s already been ruled out for Week 5. … Giants coach Tom Coughlin intimated Hakeem Nicks’ knee is not improving. He’s looking extremely dicey for Week 5. … Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Greg Jennings is back at square one with his groin injury. The increasingly fragile Jennings can’t be counted on for Week 5.
Dez Bryant Week 4 Quick Slants: Eight catches, 105 yards, three drops, one pre-snap penalty and one bad route that led to an interception. The light bulb may burn out before it goes off.
Get well soon, Chuck Pagano.
Walk like a giant.