|Giants defense: 2 sacks in 2 games vs. Romo; 51 in other 14 games|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 11 January 2008 10:47|
There were club records for touchdown throws and yards passing. There was the highlight-reel scramble of a ball snapped over his head that he somehow turned into a first down.
And, in the fine print of his game-by-game stats, there's this gem: getting sacked a total of twice in two games against the New York Giants.
Petty as it may seem, Romo's avoidance of Osi Umenyiora, Michael Strahan and Justin Tuck was quite an accomplishment considering the Giants led the NFL with 53 sacks. Take out the games against Romo and their ratio is even better, 51 in 14 games.
Sure, New York's total was boosted by 12 sacks in one game against Philadelphia, but that actually enhances the point. The Giants got to Donovan McNabb so often in part because they see him twice a year. Ditto for Romo, yet they still haven't figured out how to get him down, despite facing him more than any other team has.
Romo replaced Drew Bledsoe at halftime of the first Dallas-New York game last season, then was a starter when the teams played again. Add in the two meetings this year and that's plenty of background to help the Giants build a game plan for the first-ever postseason meeting between these NFC East rivals on Sunday.
So, what will it be: New York going all out to try finally getting to Romo? Or will the Giants decide it's not worth it and start backpedaling instead?
``I think the first couple of times we went in with the mentality that we just wanted to pretty much keep him in the pocket,'' said Umenyiora, who led New York with 13 sacks. ``So we weren't really pass rushing. We were just coming up the field and pretty much seeing what it was that he could (do), because we were so afraid of him getting out of the pocket and doing different things. But I think now we are just going to take our shots and whatever happens, happens.''
The Cowboys probably hope the Giants keep coming after Romo.
Not only has Romo avoided sacks, he's used his good blocking, nimble feet and quick release to get the ball into the areas left vulnerable by extra defenders charging at him.
Romo threw 10 passes of at least 20 yards in the two regular-season meetings. That includes touchdowns of 22, 47 and 51 yards in the September game at Texas Stadium, and TDs of 20, 25 and 50 yards in the November rematch at Giants Stadium.
The biggest plays were quite timely, too. The 51-yarder came against a third-down blitz with 3:11 left after New York had gotten within a field goal. Next time around, Romo broke a halftime tie with the 25-yarder to Terrell Owens on the opening drive of the third quarter. They hooked up again for the 50-yarder early in the fourth quarter, a few snaps after the Giants had gotten within four points.
``They are just an aggressive team by nature,'' Romo said. ``They want to get after the quarterback, they want to get to the quarterback. Once they get there, they are going to be successful. If they don't, it puts a lot of pressure on the other people. That's the way they play. Once in a while, it gives you a chance for a big play. If you don't create them, you aren't probably in for a really fun night.''
Romo learned that in his debut half against New York. The Giants sacked him twice and intercepted him three times, turning a tight game into a runaway win.
But since becoming the starter, Romo is 3-0 against them, with only three sacks in those games.
Considering his playboy nature, it makes sense that Romo lights up New York. He went 35-of-52 for 592 yards and eight touchdowns, with only two interceptions over the two meetings this season. His 11.38 yards-per-attempt were more than a yard better than he did against anyone else, and his 129.2 rating was tops, too.
``We simply have not exerted enough pressure,'' Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. ``It's difficult. We know that. The line does a good job and the backs do a good job. And Romo does have the ability to sense where pressure is coming from and get rid of the ball. So it's not an easy task, but it's one we need to address.''
Romo has something to address, too: his slipping performance of late.
He went from throwing 35 touchdowns and 14 interceptions over the first 13 games to throwing only one touchdown and five interceptions the last three games. That dragged Dallas from a 12-1 start to a 1-2 finish.
Blame it on Jessica Simpson. Or a bruised thumb. Or Owens missing the last 1 1/2 games. Or maybe a lack of incentive.
Regardless, Romo has something to prove Sunday, especially considering his only other playoff game ended with a teary apology to teammates for blowing the game. Yes, it was for a botched hold on a field goal, not for what he did at quarterback, but it all goes on his permanent record.
Come to think of it, playing a familiar foe like New York might be exactly what he needs.
``I change my approach a little bit sometimes when I play the Giants,'' Romo said. ``You are going to go with the team's game plan, but you are also going to formulate your own game plan as to how you are going to attack them and what you are going to do in certain situations and things. ... I'll come up with that and our team will, too.''