With Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Phillip Rivers, Alex Smith and Tom Brady remaining on the Broncos schedule, it seems far-fetched to believe that Tony Romo is the opposing quarterback who presents the biggest challenge to the Denver defense.
However, based on Romo’s first quarter performance — a 105.0 passer rating and eight touchdowns to one interception, the oft-beleaguered signal caller has transformed into a conservative, protect-the-ball-first quarterback who is still capable of making big throws down the field and improvising with his mobility out of the pocket.
Why should this trouble a Broncos defense that has wreaked havoc on two former Super Bowl winners and one of the greatest mobile quarterbacks ever?
For starters, Romo’s skill set is a rare combination of the four quarterbacks the Broncos have already faced this season. He has the arm strength of Joe Flacco, the accuracy of Eli Manning, and the versatility of Terrelle Pryor and Michael Vick, all the while without turning the ball over.
Perhaps most important, and not discussed on the dozens and dozens of NFL expert roundtables, is that Romo is 33. He’s a veteran QB with 11 years of experience in the league.
Although it has been a mostly tumultuous ride for him in Dallas, Romo has shown he has learned from his past mistakes, which means his best football may still ahead of him.
He’s no longer the gunslinging, Brett Favre-type that fans anointed him as many years ago. Rather, he is content with dink and dunking down the field to get points and keep opposing offenses off the field.
As a result, the Cowboys are 27-10 in Romo’s career when he doesn’t throw an interception.
The Broncos secondary has done a great job this season of not allowing opposing quarterbacks to beat them deep, but has the unit proven it can withstand four quarters of check down passes? In other terms, can the defense handle 15-play methodical drives over the span of four quarters?
We haven’t seen an opposing team put the Broncos in this type of situation and we also haven’t seen an opponent challenge Denver in the middle of the field using a six-time All-Pro tight-end, such as the Cowboys’ Jason Witten.
If the Cowboys are going to have success against Denver’s defense, then they will need a big time performance from Witten as well as Dez Bryant, who can beat defenders with a combination of short and deep routes.
This is all relative based on how the Bronco offense performs Sunday. If Peyton Mannning can get the team ahead with a comfortable lead, Romo will have no choice but to take chances down the field and to start launching ill-advised passes that are more than likely to up his turnover total.
However, if the Broncos are contained to some extent this weekend, then Romo’s style of play could prove to be problematic in not only limiting Denver’s time of possession on offense, but also challenge the defense to play its first real four quarter contest of the season.
Head coach John Fox noted in his press conference after last week’s 52-20 victory over the Eagles that his defense “weather the storm” and “made adjustments” in the second half.
What remains unclear is how many games in a row can the Denver defense withstand a mediocre first half performance before adjusting, tightening up and blowing out their opponent in the second half? Against Dallas a close contest will play more favorably for the home team and it will be up to Denver’s defense to create turnovers to win the game.