Play of the Week – Week 5

As part of something I want to do for the blog throughout the NFL season, I will be selecting one play each week where I felt as though special movement was displayed. In the post I will then breakdown some things that I felt contributed to the movement performance. In my normal fashion, I will also be very likely to make note of things that maybe could’ve been done differently, as well.

Game: Broncos at Cowboys (which is likely the best game you will see all season long)

Play: Tony Romo producing something out of nothing

Romo throw

What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?

As usual, there were a number of plays pretty worthy of play of the week status. These include;

1. Patrick Peterson beating out Steve Smith to make a real athletic interception and a long return after the grab
2. Chris Johnson making some moves in the open field to bail out Ryan Fitzpatrick with a house call
3. T.Y. Hilton shredding through the Legion of Boom (aka the Seahawks secondary) for a long touchdown

However, I think it’s time to give some credit where credit is due especially on this day where Tony Romo is getting a fair amount of criticism rather than praise for his performance yesterday. The thing is; playing quarterback in the National Football League is arguably the hardest gig in professional sports. In addition, Romo played marvelous overall yesterday. Anyone who says otherwise is judging him on a single bad decision. Yes; decision making is part of quarterbacking and how one should be judged, but I believe that people are unfairly forgetting about the fact that the only reason why Dallas was in the game at that point was their man under center. OK; rant over in that regards. The play of the week is about a single-play performance that stood out…not an entire game performance! Thus, no matter what your opinion is on Romo and his capabilities, you should be able to appreciate how special this specific play is.

As alluded to above, because of the demands of the position, being a quarterback at the highest levels is pretty damn tough to say the least. Besides having to possess the most thorough knowledge of the nuances of the game and a strong, accurate arm one must also have the character that it takes to perform weekly for a room of 52 other guys and a city on his back. Add to that enormous pressure and the stakes are higher than any other to perform and though most people would be envious of the money and the girls the quarterback gets, most would simply not even be able to fathom what goes into sitting in that role. On this play by Tony Romo, all of that is displayed and wrapped into one 12 second package. Thus, I think you will find this magical play more than deserving.

Though I will be the first to admit that I haven’t spent a lot of time studying the intricacies of quarterback footwork in the pocket (as I haven’t trained an NFL QB in the last number of years) I am still firm in saying there are not a lot of guys in the league that could make this play amidst this level of pressure witnessed here. Very few QBs have the ability to not only move around and leverage their bodies sufficiently enough to maintain balance and stability while facing guys who are of bigger and more athletic nature, but yet at the same time continue to significantly process what is happening down the field enough to make a good decision and then a skillful football task on top of it (i.e. throw the ball powerfully and accurately). This play truly is a complex mess of mastery!

What happened movement-wise on the play?

Though very little defense of solid nature was really played in this game for either team they were up against two of the most high-powered offenses in the league. That said Denver does have a very resilient defense including a nasty pass rush utilizing some very athletic guys up front which was shown on this particular play. To start the play, with #9 standing on the Bronco’s 49 yard line, he begins his drop-back all while his brain processes through the reads of his receivers back to his own 45/46 yard line where he plants to throw but with no one open to toss to. Once there, the reads work themselves out (as being covered) and the pressure starts to force him to short-shuffle-step to his left (which for a right-handed QB isn’t the optimal way for him to go). I am guessing that at this point Romo believes he is simply going to have to do what he does best which is make simple moves in the pocket in order to navigate against pressure and then hit streaking or crossing guys like Dez Bryant and Jason Witten (like he does in this play)…little did he know he was about to soon be running for his life behind the line of scrimmage.

Now for Romo, a fight or flight response must take over and it may as well been a backyard football game at this point because improv was going to be the only successful remedy to the problem that was playing out here. Luckily for the Cowboys, very few QBs in the league can play backyard gun-slinging football quite like #9. His instincts kick in now and all voluntary, neat practice-like mechanics can be thrown out of the window. However, as I have alluded to in this blog in the past these scenarios give us the best indicator as to how a guy really moves when chaos erupts around them and that is really what makes that which is about to occur that much more impressive.

Once he realizes that no one is releasing well enough to make a throw, he starts to bring the play back to the right. It should be noted that many quarterbacks would’ve likely thrown the ball away out of bounds or taken off running down field at this point instead of looking to get the ball into the hands of one of his playmakers. However the Bronco defensive front had alternative plans and they began to get greater penetration here and the pursuit was likely to head him off from making something more happen to his right. He then actually performs a hybrid jump cut with an angled stab deceleration position (between the hashes at the 44 yard line) in order to enable him to either quickly throw the ball or start back headed into the opposite direction (many QBs in the league would’ve gotten laid out on their back right here). Romo chooses the latter. He takes another couple steps to his left now and then immediately runs into further pursuit of huge angry dudes who actually get him in their grasp. Romo performs a spin-move to get away from one (not quite the same type of move that McCluster had in our Play of the Week for Wk-4 though) only to step through and past the outstretched arms of another. The sheer brilliance of this dynamic balancing and resetting of movement is absolutely astonishing. His proprioceptive sense (his body’s ability to stabilize the forces at hand subconsciously) is something that is very difficult to train or prepare for especially under these conditions.

Romo spin move

Keep in mind, all the while the above is happening he is still performing cognitive processing of multiple stimuli and constant decision-making is occurring in fractions of a second. This type of rapid processing is what allows him to see his tight end, Jason Witten, working back into the middle of the field to help bail his QB out a bit. However, as any QB knows, throwing back across body into the middle of the field is a HUGE no-no! Thus, Romo attacks the furthest point up field that he knows he can safely get to and flips his hips to put himself into a more advantageous position to drive the ball down field. Though this was not an optimal position with his feet completely set it was more than acceptable especially given the way that the entire play was working itself out. Romo then throws a strike right on the money and into the outstretched hands of his perennial Pro Bowl Tight End who was very well covered on the reception. This throw was down and away from the defender behind Witten as well as not too far out in front as to lead him into dangerous traffic.

One may think that I am making a whole lot more out of a 10 yard completion than it deserves to have. However, I greatly beg to differ. The way that Tony Romo was able to leverage his body in and out of short barriers of traffic, absorbing and exerting force rapidly (especially for a QB), all while making a very skillfully precise football play at the tail-end is something to behold.

Because the NFL website is starting to mess with my chi a little bit I couldn’t include the direct link to the play from them. However, if you want to see the telecast of the play, click on the NFL link below and then scroll down to ‘Romo’s magic in the pocket’. I apologize for the annoyance in doing it this way…hopefully I can figure out a way to get it embedded again in the actual blog like the first four weeks of the season. However, I did get a hold of this site which showed just the play we are discussing about. You can see that here:

Here is the NFL site:

Heck; if you didn’t watch the game you owe it to yourself to go back and at least watch several of the highlights from it. When it comes to NFL football this is as epic as it gets.


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