Tony Romo wasn’t short on histrionics Sunday during Patriots-Packers, but the loquacious broadcaster also offered some incisive analysis beneath his bluster and dramatized lip-reading.
In fact, Romo pointed out two crucial mistakes that cost the Patriots the game. They deserve a lot of credit for pushing the Packers into overtime at Lambeau Field, and making Aaron Rodgers look pretty average in the process.
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But they fell apart at the end. Their most egregious error was their conservative play-calling — and I’m not just talking about handing off the ball to Rhamondre Stevenson five straight times.
After pressing up against the Packers’ receivers all day, the Patriots’ corners played back during Green Bay’s final possession in overtime. That allowed Rodgers to find rookie wideout Romeo Doubs for two straight completions that pushed the Packers into field goal range. They gained 13 yards on two simple passes to the left.
On both occasions, Jack Jones was playing way off Doubs, giving him plenty of space.
“Off-coverage up here!,” Romo shouted when looking at the replay of Doubs’ first catch. “Aaron is like, “Gimme that!” That’s what New England has done a great job of all day. They’ve kind of shut down a lot of these RPOs with that type of tighter coverage. Bill knows that. Don’t give them easy ones. But right there, it was too easy.”
Then it happened again. Romo became more incredulous.
“Just talked about it on the play before,” he said. “Same exact play, they cut the split. Another off-coverage. That’s just too much. Right there, you saw it. You’ve got to come in a little tighter.”
Jones played a great game up until overtime. In the first half, he forced and recovered a fumble, and jumped a crucial third-down pass intended for Allen Lazard.
But yet, when the game was on the line, they played it safe with him.
Understandably, there’s been a considerable amount of focus on the Patriots’ bizarre offensive configuration — nice to see the holy trinity of Belichick, Patricia and Judge schooling Bailey Zappe on the sidelines — but the defense is without an official coordinator as well. Steve Belichick seems to still be calling plays, but we’re not sure how his duties align with Jerod Mayo’s.
But in Steve Belichick’s defense, the Patriots were put in a tough spot. Zappe played well above expectations Sunday … up until late in the fourth quarter. Then, he started to look like a fourth-round pick out of Western Kentucky playing his first career NFL game at Lambeau.
Zappe abruptly entered the contest when Brian Hoyer left with a head injury in the first quarter.
Despite those insane circumstances, Zappe held his own for the second and third quarters. He completed a nice pass to Nelson Agholor after a smooth play-action, and took advantage of a gift from the game clock gods to find Devante Parker wide open for a 25-yard score.
But the Packers eventually shut him down. Midway through the fourth, he got sacked for a 9-yard loss, because he made the wrong read. Stevenson was open in the flat on the right side, and Zappe mistakenly looked left.
“This is where he’s gonna end up looking to his left, and there’s your outlet,” said Romo. “That’s cause you don’t know the offense yet.”
Then came the hand-off parade. Zappe only attempted one pass during the Patriots' final two possessions. It seems as if Zappe's inability to make that read scared Matt Patricia as much as it scared Romo.
Romo gets paid to take viewers inside of the game, and he still does that. You just have to sift through lots of loud noises.