A recurring theme has come to the light in the last few days that has made me question my own existence and wonder if I'm watching the same game as some of these “personalities” that get paid exponentially more than I to do so. That theme is: Tony Romo and Jay Cutler are basically the same player. My first instinct upon hearing such a hypothesis is to laugh. Simply because that's what I do when I hear something so absurd that no amount of reasoning could redirect the flawed logic it was based on. I have a term for this. I call it “Baghdad”. Basically, it's when an assumption, situation, or idea is so off track that it would take generations to fix....and you don't have the patience for it (apologies to any Baghdanians? Baghdadites?).
Now, it's not the most absurd thing I've ever heard (that happened early at the QT when I saw they're selling three 32-ounce Powerades for $3. My god, the value). But it is far from true. The facts: both play quarterback in the NFC for teams that have had marginal playoff success in the last 10+ years under their watch (Chicago recently made it to a Super Bowl with Rex Grossman if that tells you how much we have figured out about his whole thing) and are constantly harassed by defenders because of their sub-par offensive lines. That's where it ends.
This is not the part where I make fun of Jay Cutler's pouty face and accuse him of being a real jerk in the locker room. I'm not that kind of writer. Instead, I'll stat you to death until you agree with me or at least understand the point.
...PRESSURE PUSHING DOWN ON ME PRESSING DOWN ON YOU NO MAN ASK FOR...
These are Rome's and Cutty's (I call them that because we're friends) numbers this season when facing pressure and blitzes.
JAY CUTLER-pressured on 44 drop backs, 14/32 for a 43.8 completion percentage, 11 sacks, 0 tds 3 ints, 29.8 qb rating.
Blitzed on 50 drop backs, 21/43 for a 48.8 completion percentage, 7 sacks, 2 tds 3 ints, 57.7 qb rating.
TONY ROMO-pressured on 41 drop backs, 18/32 for a 56.3 completion percentage, 7 sacks, 3 tds 2 ints, 86.3 qb rating.
Blitzed on 38 drop backs, 23/36 for a 63.9 completion percentage, 1 sack, 2 tds 1 int, 98.3 qb rating.
The things that jump out at me:
Almost one third (32%) of the time that Cutler is pressured the play results in a sack or an interception.
Cutler has been blitzed 50 times this season. That’s 24% of his 212 offensive snaps taken this year compared to Romo’s 19% (38 blitzes on 200 snaps). The point is nobody is afraid of Jay Cutler taking advantage of their blitzes and they shouldn’t be. He completes less than half of his passes when the defense brings an extra pass rusher. Romo’s qb rating when blitzed would be the 7th highest qb rating in the NFL right now if it was his across the board rating. Romo is daring defenses to blitz on him. It goes back to Bill Parcells and his theory of wanting teams to blitz so his qb can counter and make them pay. Cutler is bigger and has a stronger arm, yet he can’t find the gaps in the defense when blitzed like Romo can. It’s about style of play. It’s not just a motto. Unless it’s just a matter of blitz recognition (could be the case seeing as Romo has only been sacked once when blitzed) and then Cutler has a much bigger problem than first assumed. The absolute lack of an internal clock still may be Cutler’s biggest flaw.
There is a question of flat out quitting that shouldn’t go unnoticed. Despite how poor this offensive line has been for Tony Romo in his career here I’ve never seen him quit on a game after repeatedly being sacked. I saw Cutler do it two weeks ago against the Packers. Clay Matthews and the Green Bay front seven were mocking the Chicago protection and instead of attacking Cutler wanted to take his ball and go home. It’d be tough to try and protect that guy after that kind of effort.
-I deeply fear Henry Melton and Stephen Paea. I believe the Cowboys will take the proper approach towards Julius Peppers (which is at least two blockers on him in every passing situation. Not that that will stop him) but you can only double so many people. Livings and Bernadeau cannot handle Melton or Paea alone.
-Chicago’s defense is one of great intrigue to me. They run a Cover-2 that nobody else can. It’s typically a rush 4 and drop 7 and react situation. Every player that isn’t rushing is dropping in a zone with their eyes on the quarterback. It takes great discipline and awareness and that’s why not many people have attempted it. The key for Romo is patience. Only attack deep down the field windows when blitzed or a coverage is busted because every defensive player is staring straight at you. He will have to be content with his check downs and playing a game of chicken with Chicago to see who wants to turn up the heat first.
-The Cowboys haven’t been technically blitzing more this season and I think that’s because of a few new wrinkles and confidence in their secondary. Rob Ryan has had the defense in a more typical 4-3 under and 4-3 over front the past few weeks. Simply because Ware and Spencer aren’t hand down in the dirt doesn’t mean it’s not a 4-3 front. The positioning is exact 4-3 technic with the ends immediately on the line. I’m not sure if this continues. It seems to be working so I’d assume it’s here to stay.
The only thing Mike Marshall likes better than breaking down NFL defenses is breaking down NFL defenses on Twitter. Follow him there @machine1310.