Thursday, August 18, 2016

Xs and Os: Romo's First Big Moment - August 21, 2004

http://sportsday.dallasnews.com/dallas-cowboys/cowboys/2016/08/18/sturm-xs-os-thursday-time-machine-trip-august-2004

One thing I love doing here at The Dallas Morning News is found on Thursdays.  We cut up the last Cowboys game and talk ball.  Sometimes it is tactics and strategies, other times it is marveling at what some great athletes can do in this great sport.  Either way, we are implementing video and discussing this game through the lens of 11 on 11 GIFs.  It is something that Grantland Rice did not have the technology to pull off.  Let's take advantage of what we have to work with.
However, for our very first episode of the year, I had a choice to make.  I could either break down a few Chaz Green busts, a Lucky Whitehead return, and a JJ Wilcox issue or I could ignore that opener this morning and take you on a trip to another preseason game you might be interested in.  Since I didn't really crowdsource your opinion, you will just have to trust me.
The day is August 21, 2004.  The Cowboys are playing preseason game No. 2 of the 2004 season, so keep in mind this was two weeks after Quincy Carter was told goodbye due to his pot issue.  The team had just drafted Julius Jones, Jacob Rogers, and Stephen Peterman.  They had just won 10 games and lost to Carolina in the 2003 playoffs, and they had a QB depth chart of Vinny Testeverde, Drew Henson, and some kid named Tony Romo.  
This is not the 2004 opener.  That was the week before when the team was pounded by Houston 18-0.  All three of this QBs played and that Romo kid was 3-for-11 for 37 yards and two interceptions and had a QB rating of 1.5, which is about the lowest I have ever seen.  
So let's be clear here.  This is not Tony Romo's first preseason game.  He even played in some games in 2003 that were not considered noteworthy.  (I have no video evidence of any of these earlier games.  Side note: I collect NFL games going all the way back to the 1960s.  I love this stuff.  But, I never keep preseason football games, usually.  But, now, I wish I had all of these early Romo appearances.  So, if you have anything from the 2003 or 2004 Dallas preseason, I am interested in hearing from you.)
But, this one would easily be considered as "the first time anyone suggested Tony Romo might have something."  So, recently I watched this game -- in Spanish, since that is the only broadcast that I think has survived -- and wanted to share some details with you.  
Now, he would never play in the early parts of the game when the good players are playing.  Just like Jameill Showers of modern times, he had poor offensive linemen, receivers who would drop passes, and had to sort of make things up as he was going.  But, he entered this game to mop up with 4:43 to go in the fourth quarter and the Raiders leading the game 20-15.  
What happened next was a 17-play drive to win the game.  It was Tony Romo's first big preseason moment.  Let's have a  look at the drive:
First significant throw down the sideline to Randal Williams that the WR could not come up with.  But, the location is there and the throw looks confident and on point.
This drive featured many fourth downs.  Here is one.
4th and 11 from the Oakland 49.  Romo steps up to escape former Cowboys great Peppi Zellner and is picked off by some guy named DeJuan Green for Oakland.  Game over?  Not so fast.  
Referee Ed Hochuli is there!  Holding on the Raiders away from the play.  First down and the rally lives.  
Remember all of the former Jets that Bill Parcells brought over?  Here is Dedric Ward in the slot making a catch on a slant for 8 yards.  He would catch one pass as a Dallas Cowboy for 5 yards in the regular season.  
So, now on second and 2, Romo wants to do the Tom Brady quick QB sneak.  They didn't quite get there, though, and it is now third down.  
So, below, third and 1.  
Play-action to the FB out of the backfield.  It is Lousaka Polite who would go on to play nine seasons in the NFL.  On this occasion, Polite juggled the ball and was ruled out of bounds after coming up with this pass.  Then, it was challenged by the Cowboys, but Hochuli was not having it.  Incomplete after review.
It moves to fourth and 1.
The Cowboys briefly considered trying to run for it, but as you can see, it is lucky they did not.  Another play-action bootleg where Romo is again having to escape an untouched Peppi Zellner and hits Landon Trusty at the marker to move the chains again.  He is certainly not getting too much protection to lead this drive.
And perhaps I was merely foreshadowing the sack.  You likely don't remember Javier Collins playing tackle for the Cowboys, but he has no answer for Zellner on this drive.  Romo is hearing footsteps from every direction and eventually hits the turf which will take us down to about 1:30 to play.  
A run cuts it to third and 3, and now we find another short underneath throw to Dedric Ward to move the chains and keep hope alive inside 1:00.  If you are curious (why would you be?), the Cowboys do have one timeout left.  
On first down, Rashard Lee got 1 yard.  On second down, Romo spiked the ball to stop the clock.  So here we are on third and 9.  Romo drops and finds TE Sean Ryan from Boston College (5th round pick, No. 144) open, but he drops the ball.   So now we face the third different fourth down of the drive!
Fourth and 9 from the Oakland 13.  0:23 to go!
It looks like the exact same play as Romo sees Ryan again.  This time waits to clear the first window and hits him past the sticks and at the goal-line for a first down to the 1.  But, the clock is ticking!  Will they use their last timeout?
No!?!?
Romo rushes them to the line.  He is telling everyone it is the kill play.  Spike the ball.  Get set!  Don't move before the snap!  We are going to spike it!
Just kidding, Raiders.  QB sneak touchdown for the win!
Romo really did the "fake spike/ run a real play" trick in one of his first ever NFL appearances.  That cracked me up quite a bit.  
And if you look carefully, I think you can see his coach cracking a smile, too.
So, there you go.  The Cowboys failed on the 2-point conversion, and left Oakland with a 21-20 win in week 2 of the 2004 preseason.  And Tony Romo made the last few minutes watchable.  
So much so, that I wanted to share them with you this morning -- 12 years later.  
Hope that was enjoyable for you.  It proves you never know who you are seeing in the 4th Quarter of a preseason game.

1 comment:

Ed said...

Brilliant, Bob. I love it