To enchant someone is to fill them with great delight. To enchant someone is to charm them.
Do you remember October 23rd, 2006? It was one of the most enchanting days of your life. Why? A kid from Eastern Illinois named Tony Romo entered our lives.
Tony Romo, Quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, entered the second half of that Monday Night Football contest against the New York Giants and has been enchanting us every moment since.
Fast forward 3,469 sets of the sun and we find ourselves at April 21st, 2016 - Tony Romo's 36th birthday. A lot has happened for Tony Romo and the Cowboys since then, and we here at Inside The Star felt that today of all days was perfect for a stroll down memory lane.
I'm pretty well-versed when it comes to honoring Tony Romo here at Inside The Star.
During my Countdown To Kickoff Series last year, I wrote about how Romo is the Greatest #9 in Dallas Cowboys History. In the early days of December 2015 when all hope was lost regarding the Cowboys, I continued my series of "Plans" with Plan IV and shared a personal story revolving around Tony and the notion that anything can happen.
Like a lot of loyal members of Cowboys Nation, I have exhausted myself singing songs of Romo's praise. The general public took a bit longer to warm up to his greatness, but as of 2014 the widespread consensus is what we have known all along - Tony Romo is an elite quarterback.
What Exactly Is An Elite Quarterback, Though?
The whole "elite" thing is just a level of subjectivity that varies from analyst to analyst, fan to fan, friend to friend. How exactly can you objectively measure or quantify what makes an NFL Quarterback elite?
Typically when you're elite you've gotta be the first to do something - everyone loves a pioneer. Tony Romo happens to be the first quarterback in NFL History to be over 200 touchdowns while under 100 interceptions. Tony also happens to be behind only one quarterback in NFL History in terms of fewest interceptions along the way to 242 career touchdowns (that guy is Tom Brady, ever heard of him?).
Tony Romo took the second fewest games in NFL History to get to 30,000 career yards. He is third all-time in QBR (he has the highest QBR in 4th quarters and overtime, for what it's worth).
From 1998-2014 Romo had the 3rd highest passer rating of any QB in the 4th quarter while losing by 1-8 points, and the highest when leading by 1-8 points. Speaking of 2014 he also happened to have the league's best passer rating.
We're talking about a dude who went 8-8 with the worst statistical defense in NFL History. He is incredible.
Let's define incredible now. Is he just really good? What does "incredible" even do for his team?
Tony Romo does a whole hell of a lot for the Dallas Cowboys. In the Tony Romo era, excluding 2010 and 2015 when Romo suffered season-ending injuries, the Dallas Cowboys have NEVER played a game where they were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.
Think about that. Seriously. Close your eyes and think about how amazing that is.
Every game that Tony Romo has EVER played has had meaning. Every single one!
There has not once been a Week 17 game where we entered with the door of destiny slammed shut on us. That's what makes Tony Romo incredible - with him you always have a chance.
Tony Romo Leads The Dallas Cowboys Fearlessly
The spirit of Tony Romo is truly exemplified in the notion that with him you always have a chance. Antonio Ramiro has, over the course of his career, developed an uncanny ability to make the best plays when all hope seems to be lost. He is anything and everything that you could ever want in a quarterback.
Tony Romo's Career Resume
- 2,826 Completions (2nd in Dallas Cowboys History, 28th in NFL History)
- 34,154 Career Yards (1st in Dallas Cowboys History, 27th in NFL History)
- 247 Career Touchdowns (1st in Dallas Cowboys History, T-21st in NFL History)
- 78 Career Wins (3rd in Dallas Cowboys History)
- 30 Career Game-Winning Drives (1st in Dallas Cowboys History, T-16th NFL History)
- 25 Career Fourth Quarter Comebacks (1st in Dallas Cowboys History, 14th in NFL History)
- 97.1 Career Passer Rating (1st in Dallas Cowboys History among eligible QBs, 3rd in NFL History)
There's another matter that I've been wanting to get into for quite some time. As today is Tony Romo Day it feels appropriate.
You could make a legitimate argument that Tony Romo has only truly lost two games since 12/15/13. I want to write about this. Hmm.
December 15th, 2013 was the day that the Dallas Cowboys blew a 26-3 halftime lead at home to the Matt Flynn-led Green Bay Packers. It was, I believe, the last time that we saw the Romo that pundits believe he is and the last time that he truly lost a game.
The next loss in line came on December 29th that season at home against the Philadelphia Eagles. If you'll remember Romo suffered a season-ending injury to his back the week before during the victory in Washington so he did not play in this game - not his fault.
Fast forward to the 2014 season, where the Dallas Cowboys suffered five total losses. The first of those was Week 1 at home to the San Francisco 49ers. This was one of the worst games of Tony Romo's career, but he had rushed himself back and wasn't fully healthy. Ultimately Romo played abysmally, but as he wasn't himself... it's hard to say that he lost the game. He was handicapped and it showed.
The next two losses for America's Team came in back-to-back weeks against the Washington Redskins and Arizona Cardinals. It's funny that these were back-to-back as it was Tony Romo's back that prohibited him from finishing the Washington game and playing in the Cardinals game altogether.
Tony was injured in the middle of the Redskins game and didn't get a chance to fully finish it - so that loss isn't 100% on him. As he didn't play at all in the Arizona game, that loss isn't his either.
The only other regular season loss of that season came at home on Thanksgiving to the Philadelphia Eagles. This game can be attributed to the same handicap that plagued him in Week 1 as the Cowboys were on a very short week after a Sunday Night Football game in New York. Tony wasn't himself, and it showed. This is another half mulligan.
We all know how the 2014 Dallas Cowboys season ended, and to this day it was still a catch. A botched call cost Tony Romo his season, and gives us another reason as to why he never truly lost a game that season.
In terms of 2015 Tony Romo played in four total games. He won three of them, and the one loss came on Thanksgiving when he was knocked out with a broken collarbone for the second time that season. As he didn't finish the game... the loss isn't totally his fault.
The point is that when Tony Romo is Tony Romo... the Dallas Cowboys haven't lost a game in over two years. It's just another incredible data point in his storied and ongoing career.
Today, on Tony Romo's birthday, we celebrate that career. That's our quarterback, and it's been enchanting to know him.
Leighton Vander Esch To Top Rookie Season With Pro Bowl Trip
Dallas Cowboys' rookie Leighton Vander Esch has done enough to prove every single doubter wrong. When Roger Goodell called his name during the 2018 NFL Draft in Arlington, Texas, many in Cowboys Nation rejoiced at the thought of having a young linebacker for a defense surrounded with uncertainty. However, many analysts doubted the draft pick. For a lot of people (sadly, I include myself in this category), the pick should've been used on another player. For most, despite acknowledging his raw talent, Vander Esch wouldn't be able to provide the Cowboys with an instant impact player. Ah, well.
After a remarkable season, Vander Esch (a.k.a. Wolf Hunter) has earned a spot on this season's second-team All-Pro. When the Pro Bowl voting began, Vander Esch was snubbed from the ballot itself. It didn't took the NFL long to realize their mistake and add the Cowboys' linebacker to the list. Despite missing the cut at first, Vander Esch will be heading to Orlando to play in this year's Pro Bowl on January 27th.
The former Boise State Bronco will be replacing Carolina Panthers' LB Luke Kuechly, who won't be participating because of an injury.
Vander Esch racked up 140 tackles (per Pro Football Reference), ranking third in the league in this category. He finished the season as the fifth best linebacker in Pro Football Focus' rankings.
But numbers aren't really enough to fully appreciate what Vander Esch did for the Dallas Cowboys. A team that was used to seeing its defense break when veteran Sean Lee went down injured, did not only get someone to fill in for Lee. Vander Esch actually upgraded the Cowboys' defense. It didn't matter where the ball went, he was always around when opponents were tackled. His speed and chance of direction allowed him to run sideline to sideline, covering a huge portion of the field.
Along Jaylon Smith, Dallas managed to have one of the best linebacker duos in the NFL.
The last time a defensive rookie from the Cowboys went to the Pro Bowl was in 1981, when Everson Walls made the team. Vander Esch is the 11th rookie in team history to be selected to the Pro Bowl. This year, the rookie will be accompanied by DeMarcus Lawrence, Byron Jones, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Ezekiel Elliott.
Cowboys Expect C Travis Frederick Back for Offseason Program
Lost in yesterday's hoopla over Scott Linehan's return was a positive report about Center Travis Frederick. In his comments to the media, Jason Garrett said that Frederick's recovery timetable should allow him to a full participant in the team's offseason program.
After never missing a start in his first five years, Travis missed all of 2018 dealing with the effects of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. The disease attacked his neurological system and required immediate and intensive treatment.
Jason Garrett says the team anticipates Travis Frederick being involved in the offseason program right from the start this spring if he continues on the same positive track in recovery from Guillain-Barré syndrome. #cowboyswire
While Joe Looney performed admirably in Frederick's absence, he's not an elite talent. Travis has been arguably the best center in the NFL since entering the league in 2013.
It's hard to qualify what effect not having Frederick had on the Cowboys offense in 2018. Ezekiel Elliott still led the league in rushing, but short-yardage plays weren't as automatic as we've seen in past years. A 4th-and-1 stuff was part of what led to the Cowboys' loss this past Saturday.
Dak Prescott was the second-most sacked QB in the NFL in 2018. After being sacked just 25 and 32 times in his first two seasons, the number skyrocketed to 56 sacks.
That's not all on Frederick, of course. Tyron Smith had some health issues and there were was turnover at left guard.
But having your All-Pro veteran center out there to help with the pre-snap reads, and help the rookie guard on his left, might have helped avoid some of those issues.
Indeed, Travis Frederick's return is just one of many reasons for optimism with the 2019 season. One of the best players on the team, he was sorely missed this year and can only help as Dallas looks to build on their division title and playoff appearance.
For Cowboys to Beat the Rams, Dak Prescott must Lead the Way
In the NFL wins and losses often come down to quarterback play. That isn't to say that if a team wins, it was all because of the quarterback and inversely, if a team loses that it was all on the quarterback. Teams win or lose games. Generally speaking, however, the quarterback has the highest amount of influence on the outcome of an NFL game. This will be no different for the Dallas Cowboys this Saturday when they take on the Los Angeles Rams in the LA Coliseum. For America's Team to make their first trip to the NFC Championship Game since 1996, Dak Prescott has to have a good game.
This looks to be a good matchup for the Dallas Cowboys offense, which should allow Dak Prescott and the Cowboys to take advantage in certain areas.
A few Rams Passing Game Notes
- The Los Angeles Rams were middle of the pack against the pass this season, allowing the 14th fewest passing yards in the league this season.
- The Rams allowed 7.7 yards per attempt. Dak Prescott is averaging 7.6 yards per attempt since week 10 of the season.
- The Rams allowed the eighth most passing touchdowns in the NFL this season. They and the New Orleans Saints are the only teams in the top 10 of passing touchdowns allowed in the playoffs this season.
- The Rams were 15th in the NFL in sacks, with 41, but Aaron Donald accounted for half of that with 20.5 sacks on the season. No other player had more than five sacks.
- They were third in the NFL in interceptions, collecting 18.
- The Rams allowed the ninth highest yards per completion on the season at 11.8. So on average, every completion went for a first down.
Dak Prescott is playing as well as any quarterback in the playoffs at the moment. Over the last nine games, he's averaging 272 passing yards, two total touchdowns, was only intercepted four times, and was sacked on average 3.2 times per game.
On Saturday night, we saw Scott Linehan put the ball in his hands on a couple designed runs that nearly scored touchdowns. It was an excellent addition to the offense that could help fix the Cowboys red zone woes. Getting Dak Prescott running on some designed runs or quarterback draws could help slow down Aaron Donald and the pass rush.
The Cowboys needed every bit of Dak Prescott magic to overcome a stingy Seattle Seahawks defense in their Wild Card win and they'll need him to step up again this week against the Rams. Every team is going to attempt to take away the running game to make Dak beat you and as he continues to mature, he's getting more and more comfortable doing that. He's comfortable with the big stage and the big moments.
Dak Prescott Since 2016, including playoffs * 15 game-winning drives (Most in NFL) * 13 primetime QB wins (Most in NFL) * 19 rush TD (Most in NFL by QB) #DallasCowboys @dak
No Quarterback in the NFL has more game winning drives, rushing touchdowns, or wins in primetime than Dak Prescott. When we talk about Dak Prescott, we talk a lot about the things that he can't do as a passer and deservedly so, he still has some growing to do in that area, but in the things that you can't objectively quantify -- mental toughness, resiliency, clutchness, will, determination -- Dak is one of the best in the NFL. He's as mentally tough as they come in the NFL and he doesn't let the spotlight or the game situation phase him. He has that stuff that's hard to put your finger on.
The Dallas Cowboys will need more of that on Saturday night in Los Angeles. The Rams can score and can score in bunches and if the Cowboys defense starts sluggish or has an off night, they'll need Dak Prescott to keep them in the game. Even if the defense has a good game, Dak still has to come through in the passing game and on the ground to give the Cowboys a chance to pull off the upset.
The Dallas Cowboys are going to try to run the ball against the Rams on Saturday. That's their identity; run the ball, control the clock, and be efficient in the passing game. Prescott, either with his legs or with his arm will have to make some plays to extend drives and keep the Rams offense on the sideline. He'll need to be sharp in the red zone to convert those opportunities into touchdowns. Settling for field goals against the Rams is how the Cowboys get beat.
This matchup with the Rams looks to set up nicely for Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys, yet how things look on paper doesn't mean much when the lights go on and the whistle blows. It's a big stage and it's another win-or-go-home game for the Cowboys (like every game has been over the last nine weeks). In a big game, you need big time players, and the Cowboys have one in quarterback Dak Prescott.
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