NE HOMERS: Dallas Cowboys wield a double-edged sword

TWO-FACED LEADER: Quarterback Tony...
TWO-FACED LEADER: Quarterback Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys offense seem to be stuck in a “Twilight Zone”-like vortex — and a twisted case of Good Romo/Bad Romo. That explains their two wins and two losses.


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Dangerous offense a deadly game of Good Romo/Bad Romo

Karen Guregian
By Karen Guregian | Patriots Beat | Boston Herald
Sunday, October 16, 2011
FOXBORO — Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys boast one of the most potent passing attacks in the NFL. It’s one of the most dangerous aerial assaults the Patriots will face this season.

And dangerous is the operative word. It’s a danger to opponents when the Good Romo is making the throws. But when the Bad Romo comes out, it is a danger to Dallas. That awe-inspiring Cowboys offense often goes up in smoke.

So that is the leading question for today: What is it going to take for the Pats to get Good Romo off his game, and prevent him from torching their defense in today’s showdown at Gillette Stadium? What’s going to prevent Romo from ripping the 32nd-ranked passing defense apart?

In a word: pressure.

Romo tends to turn the ball over when he’s under duress. He does wacky things when he gets flustered and presses to make plays. That’s not very encouraging news for a Cowboys offensive line that has allowed 13 sacks in four games — which is extra troubling for a mobile quarterback such as Romo.

So the Pats’ key is apply the heat. While Good Romo has done some amazing things this season, bringing the Cowboys back late in wins against the Redskins and 49ers, Bad Romo has done some of the season’s more boneheaded things in losses to the Jets and Lions.

“We just want to apply the pressure and get to him,” Pats defensive lineman Gerard Warren said of Romo. “Whether we keep him in the pocket, or he runs out, we just want to get to him.”

Romo can make things happen when he’s on the run. He also has the ability to get hot and hit receivers all over the field. He certainly has enough weapons at his disposal, so Good Romo can be a problem for defenses.

“He can be very dangerous, he’s so elusive,” said Patriots defensive end Andre Carter, who has first-hand knowledge, having faced Romo 11 times during his NFC days. “One thing about him, especially when he goes out of the pocket, he’s able to pinpoint whether it’s hitting the tight end (Jason Witten), Dez Bryant, the core receivers, because as you know, they’re big, they’re tall, they’ll be able to do a few jump balls from what I’ve seen on film. That can be very dangerous for anybody.”

The Pats secondary has been devoured by the taller, more athletic receivers they’ve faced this year. Miami’s Brandon Marshall (seven catches, 139 yards), San Diego’s Vincent Jackson (10 catches, 172 yards, two TDs), and Oakland’s Darius Heyward-Bay (four catches, 115 yards) all had their way. Granted, all of their teams nevertheless lost to the Patriots.

The difference today is that the Cowboys have more than one big-time stud to throw at the Pats in Miles Austin and Bryant and Pro Bowler Witten.

Patriots corners Devin McCourty, Leigh Bodden, Ras-I Dowling and Kyle Arrington certainly have their work cut out for them. This isn’t going to be the same as shutting down meek Mark Sanchez and the Jets, which the Pats managed in a fairly effective fashion last Sunday.

“It’ll be a good matchup and a good chance to go out and compete,” McCourty said of trying to shut down Bryant and Austin. “They’re right up there with anybody in the league, as far as playmakers, guys that have good speed to get down the field, and strong physical guys that go up and get the ball in traffic.”

The Cowboys are also coming off a bye week. They’ve had two weeks to map out an offensive game plan that can attack the Pats’ weaknesses. They’ve seen the film evidence of a defense that has given up 28 pass plays of 20 or more yards this season.

“In stretches they’ve played really good ball,” Romo said last week of the Patriots’ bottom-ranked defense. “I don’t know that that’s who they are. I think really, they’re a good defensive unit that’s just coming into their own lately. I think they’re going to be pretty good the rest of the way.”

Romo was understandably coy about the Cowboys’ plan for attacking the Patriots.

“You game plan certain teams differently. If they have a great front four, you want to move around and help your protection by sliding the front, things like that,” he said. “If you feel comfortable with the matchups then you might stay in the pocket. It’s just relative to the opponent. … We kind of take what we think a different team does or doesn’t do well and try to attack them where we think they’re weak.”

In other words, he’s likely going to sling it around Gillette Stadium. He’s going to attack the Patriots secondary.

That was the strategy two weeks ago against the Lions, too. He attacked their weakest area — the secondary — and it was working. Dallas was up, 27-3, but blew that lead en route to a 34-30 loss at home.

Then the Bad Romo appeared. His three second-half interceptions paved the way for the Lions comeback.

“You never want that to happen,” Romo said. “(But) we were also fortunate to have all the things go right against Washington and against San Francisco. For every game that’s the other way, there’s another one the other side.

“Everyone is good in this league. You have to minimize turnovers in key situations. We did that for two of the games and two of the games we didn’t. That’s really what it comes down to.”

Which way will it go today? Good Romo or Bad Romo. The Patriots will surely want a hand in deciding that.

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