Saturday, September 14, 2013

Defending Tony Romo

The Chiefs' defense put on a masterful performance last Sunday against the Jaguars. Now they face a very talented Cowboys team and are going to be tested in this game a lot more than they were last week. The Cowboys are led by starting quarterback Tony Romo. Romo represents one of the most prolific passers in today's NFL. Today I'll break down how the Chiefs defense can build on last week's performance against Blaine Gabbart and make life just as hard on Tony Romo. The keys to defending Romo are a coupleof things. First, you must be able to do is stop the Cowboys' run game. Secondly, you must create pressure up the middle of the pocket and not give Romo time to diagnose the defense.

The number one thing the Chiefs must do in defending Tony Romo is stopping the run. The Cowboys have a 4-0 record when Murray rushes for at least 100 yards. Romo's average QB rating in those victories is a whopping 127%. During that span, he also has completed 69% of his passes. But the biggest stat that stands out to me is margin of victory. The Cowboys average margin of victory during that time span was 20 points. The problem Murray presents is his impact on the run game, which allows the Cowboys offense to stay balanced. Romo has a tendency to force the issue when he feels like the game is on his shoulders. That feeling causes Romo to throw interceptions. If Murray is providing balance in the run game, that takes pressure off of  Romo and alleviates the feeling to make big plays on every throw. Another issue Murray causes when running the ball is that it opens up the play-action pass. If Murray is dominating on the ground, that opens up a host of downfield throws to Dez Bryant or Miles Austin. So keeping Murray in check is no doubt one of the key points in defending Tony Romo.

During my research on defending Romo, I've learned the most important key is creating pressure. So Chiefs must find a way to accomplish this. The Chiefs must not give Romo time to sit back in the pocket and pick them apart. When Romo is given time to diagnose the defense, he has repeatedly shown the ability to make big plays. Let's look at this clip of Romo against Giants last Sunday.

As you can see in the video, if you give Romo that kind of time, he's going to find the open man.  In the clip,  Romo had all day to throw this football. Because of the Giants inability to get pressure on Romo, he found Witten in the endzone for a touchdown.
Now let's look at the best ways to defend Romo. In this next clip, I'm going to show you how the Chiefs can force Romo into making some mistakes. The biggest thing I've notice when studying Romo is most of his interceptions come from two things: 1) miscommunication with the receivers and 2) handling pressure up the middle. In a lot of the Cowboys plays, they have built in routes that change based on what Romo sees in the defensive coverage. Most of the time it seems that Romo and his receivers aren't on the same page. Let's breakdown this next clip

As you can see in this clip, Romo gets pressure up the middle and from the outside. The pressure causes him to check into a quick hitch route. The problem is Bryant keeps running up the field. Tillman, who hasn't even opened his hips, waits on the throw for an easy pick six. In this play, the pressure up the middle causes Romo to want the receiver to change his route. However, in this case,Bryant continues to run the original route. You can expect plays like this in Sunday's game. Chiefs defensive backs must come away with these interceptions, because I'm expecting them to have a few balls thrown their way.
Now let's dive into how Romo does a good job at avoiding outside pass rush. In this video, let's take a look at how Osi Umenyiora beats his man on an outside rush.

As you can see, Romo does an excellent job at evading the rush. The main thing I've noticed about Romo is when he's getting pressure from the outside rush, he knows how to slide well within the pocket. This allows him to buy time to get the ball downfield. Romo does an excellent job of keeping his eyes downfield when evading the outside rush, which leads to big plays in the pass game.
This brings me to my next point about getting pressure up the middle. Another thing that shows up on tape with Romo is that when you're able to get pressure in his face, he has a tendency of forcing throws. Romo doesn't take a lot of sacks because of his unique ability to avoid the outside pass rush . However, when you're able to generate a pass rush right in his face, he'll force a ball where he shouldn't. Let's take look at a clip where Romo is getting pressure right up the middle.

If you break down this play, Melton beats the guard inside and does a great job of causing pressure up the middle of the pocket. Instead of taking the sack, he tries to slide up in the pocket and flip the ball to Witten. However, because Melton is in process of sacking him, it causes the ball to be flipped right into Briggs hand for another pick six.
In this next video, from the Giants game last yr the Cowboys are in a 3rd and 8. Romo gets pressure up the middle by Pierre- Paul, which causes him to force this throw to Olgetree. The end result is an interception by Michael Boley, which leads to a 51 yard return.

As you can see in the video, the Giants drop their coverage into a Cover 2 sink. This means their linebackers will move into the middle of the field. Romo's progression should have led him to throw the ball outside the numbers. However, he panics from the interior rush and throws the ball where you shouldn't against this type of defensive coverage.
Dontari Poe is going to play a vital role in making life miserable for Tony Romo on Sunday. He'll be going up against a very weak interior offensive line. The Cowboys offensive line is so weak that they have brought former Chiefs Brian Waters out of retirement to try to help improve it . Waters hasn't played football in over a year. So the expect Chiefs to send a lot of heat between in the A-gaps (space between the center and guard) to try to rattle Romo into some early interceptions.
The Chiefs have all the ingredients to defend one of NFL's most prolific passers in Tony Romo. Now it's just a matter of going out there and executing.

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