Romo a wild card for Patriots defense

Romo a wild card for Patriots defense
October 13, 2011, 5:44 pm
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FOXBORO The Dallas Cowboys' much-maligned quarterback Tony Romo will remain a polarizing fixture in Big 'D' until he wins a Super Bowl or gets run out of town -- whichever comes first.

He has shown the ability to dominate a game, then completely disappear when he's most needed in another.

Love him or hate him, one thing most agree on -- Romo's play will have a major impact on the outcome of Sunday's game against New England.

While watching him on video certainly helps the Pats in their preparation, Romo's unpredictability on any given play only adds to the challenge.

"He's very mobile. No play is really ever dead with Romo," said New England cornerback Devin McCourty. "Even when guys get to him, he can escape."

But unlike most mobile quarterbacks, Romo has the ability to still hurt teams in the passing game even with a 300-plus pound defensive behemoth breathing down his neck.

"He has that ability, no matter what side of the field he's on, left or right," McCourty added. "He can turn his shoulders and throw the ball vertical. In the secondary, we have to stay on our guys and stay ready no matter what he does back there."

The decision on whether to scramble or stick tight in the pocket varies from one opponent to another, from one play to another.

"If they have a great front-four, you want to move around and help your protection by sliding the front, things like that," Romo said. "If you feel comfortable with the matchups you might stay in the pocket. It's just relative to the opponent. Each week we kind of do things differently. We're not the same team every week."

And Romo, good or bad, is definitely not the same quarterback.

In a 27-24 season-opening road loss to the New York Jets, Romo was at his worst when the game mattered most.

A week later, playing with a fractured rib, he rallied the Cowboys to a 27-24 overtime win over San Francisco.

The first two weeks of the Cowboys season provided further proof that when it comes to Romo, you never really know what you're going to get from one game to the next.

While Romo's scrambling ability certainly puts stress on the secondary, New England's defensive line could make their jobs a lot easier.

Shaun Ellis said the key for the Pats defensively will be to "execute the game plan, make it hard on him, put pressure on him and hopefully he'll make a mistake."

Ellis added, "he's different. He has his own style, the way he goes about his operation. We'll definitely have our hands full. They have great receivers, and are well balanced. And they have him throwing to them."

And when it comes to the up and down play, Romo will be the first to acknowledge that this season -- so far at least -- has been one with equal highs and lows for him and the Cowboys (2-2).

"For every game that's the other way, there's another one the other side," Romo said. "Everyone is good in this league. You have to minimize turnovers in key situations. We did that for two of the games and two of the games we didn't. That's really what it comes down to."