Thursday, September 6, 2012

Breaking Down the 'Boys: Film Analysis of Romo's Audibles Vs. Giants in Week 1 - Dallas Morning News (blog)

Since Jason Garrett has taken over as the offensive coordinator in Dallas, the team has employed “Kill” calls for offensive audibles. Often times, Garrett gives quarterback Tony Romo two plays to call in the huddle. When you hear Romo yell “Kill” before the snap, he’s alerting the offense to “kill” the first play and run the second.

I’ve long believed the audible system to be one of the reasons many don’t give Romo credit for using his mind as a quarterback. Instead of all of the pre-snap theatrics you see from some quarterbacks, Romo issues a simple one-word check. It goes unnoticed by most, but like Eli Manning screaming “Four down, four down. 54 is the Mike. Eagle, four down. Check, check, 50 is the Mike,” Romo is also putting his offense in the optimal position to succeedâ€"the ultimate goal of any audible. He just consolidates.

I need to review the film in greater detail, but I believe Romo issued four “Kill” calls last night. Two of them in particular were a major reason for the Cowboys’ 24-17 victory. Let’s break them down. . .

The 40-Yard Strike to Kevin Ogletree

One a 2nd and 10 at the Giants’ 40-yard line, Garrett called for “21” personnelâ€"two backs and a tight end. He split tight end Jason Witten into the slot, creating a formation called “3 Wide I.” Despite the somewhat pass-oriented look, the Cowboys have historically run from the “21” personnel grouping 89 percent of the time.

Prior to the snap, the Giants’ “Sam” backer showed blitz. Romo noticed it and issued a “Kill” call. The original play called in the huddle was likely a run, and Romo figured he had single coverage outside.

The Giants did indeed blitz, but the Cowboys picked it up. Right tackle Doug Free got beat inside just a bit by Osi Umenyiora, but Romo knew where he wanted to go with the football and scooted outside to his right.

As you can see above, the Giants were in Cover 1â€"one free safety deep and everyone else in man coverage underneath. It’s a typical coverage following a blitz, and Romo was correct to assume it was coming.

On the outside, Kevin Ogletree ran a “Stick-9” or “stop-and-go.” Working on Corey Websterâ€"the Giants best cornerbackâ€"Ogletree got Webster to jump on the double move. Webster really should have been playing more conservatively in man coverage, but it was still a tremendous route from Ogletree. Romo laid the ball on him for the score.

The 1st and 30 Miracle to Miles Austin

The Cowboys were killed by penalties all night, and a couple of careless mistakes put them in a seemingly insurmountable 1st and 30 situation. With the ball at the Giants’ 34-yard line, the ‘Boys lined up with the exact same personnel and in the same formation as on the 40-yard touchdown to Ogletree.

Prior to the snap, the Giants did not show blitz. Seeing that, Romo issued a “Kill” call. When I noticed the check, I assumed the Cowboys were going to run a draw play. One-third of all of Romo’s “Kill” calls over the past three years have been to a draw, and they almost always run a draw following the audible if the linebackers don’t show blitz.

After the call, though, Romo did something unusualâ€"he ducked behind the line and gave Miles Austin a signal I haven’t seen in three-plus years of Cowboys film study.

Following the snap, the Giants did indeed drop seven men into coverage. As was the case on the Ogletree play, the Giants showed their intentions pre-snap. That’s a big “no-no” when facing Romo. As I’ve explained before, Romo thrives when a defense shows their look prior to the snap.

Since 2009, his passer rating is sensationally higher when he has a grasp on what a defense might throw at himâ€"even more so than other NFL quarterbacks. He can struggle when a defense shows a blitz but then backs out of it, especially, but luckily the Giants rarely did that last night.

On the outside, Austin was working on Justin Tryon. That’s a huge mismatch and Romo was correct to exploit it. I actually think Romo may have misread the coverage, however. The Giants were in a “Cover 2 Man-Under” lookâ€"one they ran on over half of their plays against the Cowboys last year.

I’m not sure if Romo thought he had straight man coverage and that’s why he checked out of what was likely originally a running play, but it’s possible he knew the coverage and still figured he could fit the ball into a tight window before the safety arrived. He ended up making the throw, Austin adjusted, and the Cowboys went on to win by a single score.

Jonathan Bales is a special contributor to He’s the founder of The DC Times and writes for and the New York Times. He’s also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People. He can be reached at

You can follow him @TheCowboysTimes.

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