Tony Romo Throws Five Picks, Bears Maul Cowboys in Dallas
By Justin Henry (@cynicjrh)
NFC East Beat Writer/Kirstie Alley's personal dietitian
After Brandon Marshall hauled in a 31-yard touchdown pass to put Chicago well ahead of Dallas, Jay Cutler grabbed offensive lineman J’Marcus Webb by the wrist.
After the debacle in Week 2 against Green Bay, Cutler came under fire for shoving Webb after his blindside tackle performed poorly. The chatter became, “Cutler isn’t a good leader” and “The Bears have too many offensive problems to be able to succeed.”
When Marshall iced Chicago’s already-iced victory, Cutler said something to Webb, and patted him on the helmet in an encouraging fashion. Week 2’s disaster was forever ago, and the Bears sit 3-1 atop the NFC North along with Minnesota, after beating Dallas 34-18 on Monday night.
As for Dallas, it may as well have been Week 2, with much more of a horror movie feel. The 27-7 loss in Seattle was a nail-biter compared to the Bears’ evisceration of Garrett’s gang.
Tony Romo threw 5 interceptions, 2 of them for touchdowns, and the Bears found enough traction on offense to supplement those defensive gifts.
The Cowboys now fall to 2-2, giving Philadelphia (3-1) single occupancy atop the NFC East.
1. Cutler Makes it Look Easy
For the first time since November 29, 2009, Jay Cutler completed 75 percent or higher of his passes, while throwing at least 20 times.
The sulking Vanderbilt alum completed 18 of 24 passes for 275 yards and 2 touchdowns, with nary a pick. For the night, that stat line was good enough for a 140.1 rating, Cutler’s best since November 28, 2010.
After an anemic statistical outlook after 3 games, 52.7 percent completions and a 58.6 rating, Cutler’s line for the year now reads as follows: 67 for 117 (57.2 percent completions), 917 yards, 5 touchdowns, 6 picks, and a rating of 75.3.
Progress is progress, no?
Cutler was also sacked only 2 times, losing 8 yards, but one sack by DeMarcus Ware caused his lone error of the night; a fumble that Victor Butler would recover in Bears territory. With the score only 17-7 Chicago at that point, Dallas had a chance to turn Cutler’s error into gold.
But, one play later…..well, we’ll cover that in the next bullet point.
2. Chicago Defense Chews Romo Up
It’s the second time Tony Romo has thrown 5 interceptions in a single game. The other time was in an unlikely 25-24 victory over Buffalo on October 8, 2007.
This time, Romo wouldn’t be so lucky.
Major Wright snagged two interceptions, and DJ Moore claimed one of his own. The two other steals went to Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs, who changed the game with their highway robberies.
Down only 3-0 and pinned fairly deep, Romo called an audible on a third and nine, and flung a pass in the direction of Dez Bryant. However, due to a miscommunication, Bryant was nowhere in the vicinity of the pass, allowing veteran Charles Tillman to hastily nab it.
Tillman was in for the score 25 yards later.
Now, in regards to that Ware sack/Butler recovery mentioned moments ago, Dallas got the ball on Chicago’s 27 over midway through the third quarter, trailing by 10 points.
One play later, Romo, out of desperation due to an oncoming rush, threw a perfect shovel pass…..to Lance Briggs, who would run 74 yards damn near uncontested for the touchdown.
Of the five interceptions, 2 occurred in Chicago territory, 1 happened right at midfield, and 2 happened with Dallas pinned deep.
Chicago could only manage one sack, that by Henry Melton (4.0 for the year) under five minutes into the game, but the constant pressure and tricky sugar blitzes forced Romo into some costly mistakes.
Although Romo has gained a reputation as a ‘choke artist’, this is only the eighth time, in 107 career games, that he’s thrown 3 or more INTs in a single game.
3. Bears Offense Asserts Itself
CHFF’s Offensive Hog Index painted a pretty cruddy picture of Chicago’s offense before their date in Dallas. Combining the three categories that constitute the index, Chicago ranked dead last in the league in terms of the efficiency of their offensive line, and their general offensive success at large.
Category 1: Rushing Yards Per Attempt
Weeks 1-3: Thanks to an injury to Matt Forte, Michael Bush and Khalil Bell tried, and failed, to shoulder the load. Combined, the Bears averaged 3.46 YPA rushing, for fifth worst in the league
Week 4: The Bears only managed 3.32 YPA against Dallas, but starter Forte got a solid 4.0 YPA himself (52 yards on 13 carries). Bush was the negative anchor, managing 29 yards on 10 carries.
Category 2: Negative Pass Plays (Percentage of passing plays that end in a sack or interception)
Weeks 1-3: A league-worst 16.35 percent, thanks to 11 sacks and 6 interceptions.
Week 4: A much healthier 7.69 percent, with just 2 sacks on 26 pass attempts.
Category 3: Third Down Percentage
Weeks 1-3: A 31.71 success rate, ninth worst in the league.
Week 4: Chicago went 7 for 12 (58.33 percent), with 4 of them coming in the second half. Two of those resulted in touchdown passes to Devin Hester and Brandon Marshall.
4. Witten Revitalized as Dez Disappoints
With six uncharacteristic dropped passes over the previous 2 games, Jason Witten managed to turn his fortunes around with his best performance of the season.
The iron-clad tight end caught 13 passes for 112 yards, with both totals being higher than his season stats heading into the game (8 catches, 76 yards). He also scored his first touchdown of the year, a garbage one for 5 yards from Kyle Orton, in on mop-up duty after Romo was yanked.
Meanwhile, Dez Bryant had himself a solid game fantasy-wise, making 8 catches for 105 yards, and scoring a two-point conversion on Witten’s TD. But there could have been more.
Whatever dropsies bug that Witten was afflicted with has apparently contaminated Bryant. Big Dez had three drops of his own tonight, some in crucial spots.
Drop No. 1 took place with Dallas behind 24-7 in the third. Forging well into Chicago territory, Bryant couldn’t hold on to a routine pass on third and six, forcing the Cowboys to settle for a field goal.
But forget just keeping a drive alive. Bryant also dropped a sure touchdown pass when he had beaten the coverage by a couple steps, and Romo’s pass squirted through his hands. This was early in the fourth, with Dallas down 27-10.
The Cowboys have showed potential to be a good team, as evidenced by their handling of New York, and their defensive stonewalling of Tampa Bay. But to win, like any other team, it’s going to require these superstars and Pro Bowlers all being at their best at the same time.
5. Where to From Here?
Chicago will head to Jacksonville on a short week to battle Maurice Jones-Drew, who’s averaging 4.9 YPA. The Bears, after four games, are allowing just 3.84 YPA, so you’re talking a true battle of the irresistible force and the immovable object. Blaine Gabbert’s been sacked 12 times, but has only thrown 1 pick. I’m certain this will change.
As for Dallas, they get the week off to try and put this behind them. After that, it’s off to Baltimore, who have the third best run-stopping unit in the game (3.15 YPA), but struggle on third down on offense (34.78 percent success rate, twelfth worst in the league). The Ravens will be coming off a road game in Kansas City, where Matt Cassel’s blood may only make them hungry for more crimson.