The two faces of Tony Romo

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It seems like Tony Romo is always struggling late in games, but is that what defines him as a QB?

Tony Romo became the 15th player in NFL history to throw for 500 yards in a game on Sunday, breaking Don Meredith's Cowboys record for a single game. However, a fourth-quarter interception set the Broncos up to pull out an epic 51-48 win.

So, who is the real Cowboys quarterback – Dr. Romo or the Romo-coaster?

Dr. Romo

Despite the late mistake Sunday, Romo had arguably the best game by a quarterback in a loss this season. No quarterback has posted a higher QBR in a defeat this season than his 92.1 yesterday.

Since he entered the league, Romo has consistently put up some of the best numbers in the NFL.

Romo has 19 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime, tied for fifth-most since he took over the starting job in 2006. He has a career 68.7 QBR in the 4th quarter - only Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers are better since 2006.

Highest QBR in fourth Quarter - Since 2006

This season, Romo is second in the NFL with 13 touchdown passes. And only Peyton Manning has fewer interceptions among quarterbacks with at least 30 pass attempts per.


Despite his overall success, the other side of the coin for Dr. Romo is that sickening feeling he often leaves Cowboys fans late in games – something we’ll refer to as the Romo-coaster.

Romo's lone interception Sunday was the 23rd fourth-quarter interception of his career. The Cowboys have lost the last eight games in which Romo has thrown a fourth-quarter interception, with six of those losses coming by seven points or fewer.

Since 2010, Romo's Total QBR in the first 12 minutes of the fourth quarter/OT is 80. That's second-best in the NFL behind Peyton Manning. However, his QBR drops to a below-average 44 in the game's final three minutes.

Most INT in 4th Quarter or OT
Score Tied or Leading by 7 or Fewer

And he's not only making these mistakes as the Cowboys attempt to rally from late deficits. Eight of Romo's fourth-quarter interceptions have come with the Cowboys tied or leading by one score - that's the most in the NFL in that span. Those give opposing teams life when Dallas should have been icing the win.

Sunday's interception was particularly painful, dropping the chances for a Cowboys win by 26 percentage points. That was the second worst interception of Week 5 in terms of a single play costing a team’s chances at victory behind Blaine Gabbert’s pick-six for Jacksonville, but that play came in the first half so Gabbert’s team still had an opportunity to overcome that drop.


While it seems like Tony Romo is often throwing away games in the fourth quarter, he actually has fewer fourth-quarter interceptions (23) in the last eight seasons than such “clutch” quarterbacks as Drew Brees (35), Ben Roethlisberger (30) and Brett Favre (25). Dr. Romo does more than enough for the Cowboys to offset the appearances of the Romo-coaster.