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Dolphins at Cowboys Thanksgiving Football - Drastic Improvement from Tony Romo

With the Miami Dolphins taking on the Dallas Cowboys in just a few hours, it's time to take a look at the Cowboys' quarterback Tony Romo.  Romo has been consistently inconsistent during his NFL career, with some games looking like he belongs with names like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers; other times, he probably should be mentioned with Mark Sanchez and Rex Grossman.  So, which Romo will the Dolphins see today?

If the last three weeks are any indication, it could be a long day for the Miami secondary.  During the Cowboys' first seven games, during which the team went 3-4, Romo threw 7 interceptions, along with 11 touchdowns, and had a passer rating of 97.3.  However, in the last three games, the switch has been thrown, and Romo has come out on fire.

He has had his two highest passer ratings of the season the last two weeks, and three weeks ago was the fourth highest of the year.  He has thrown for 270 yards or more each week, and has eight touchdowns and no interceptions over the time period.  His passer rating is 125.4

Something changed in Romo, or with the Cowboys, to turn on this passing onslaught.  So, I once again turned to the Cowboys' expert Dave Halprin of Blogging The Boys to help us understand why Romo is suddenly so good.

 "I attribute it to a variety of factors. One, he's finally healthy again after he cracked his ribs early in the season. He's no longer taking pain-killer shots, and he's not wearing his flak jacket anymore. He's able to throw easier and move around in the pocket without fear of getting hit and hurting the ribs again. Two, the Cowboys run game came to life a month ago when DeMarco Murray took over the lead back duties, also the same time Tony Fiammetta returned from injury. Those two have made a big difference, and this helps ease the pressure on Romo, literally in the sense of slowing down the pass rush, and figuratively in the sense he doesn't have to carry the offense. Third, the offensive line starting playing better. We made a lot of changes there in the offseason, and it finally started coming together."

Halprin make a ton of sense in his analysis.  As Dolphins fans, we all should understand the star player battling injury, then looking great when he is finally healthy - we're seeing it now in the suddenly improved play of Jake Long.  The Cowboys' run game can be scary, but the Dolphins are the 7th best defense against the run this season, and have only allowed an average of 72 yards per game on the ground the last three weeks.  Hopefully they can continue to bottle up opposing running backs.

I asked Halprin about where the Dolphins defense should attack Romo and the Cowboys offense:

"First, you have to stop the run," Dave replied.  "When Romo has a good run game going, he becomes very difficult to stop when he throws. An effective run game slows down the pass rush, and it keeps bigger players on the field, players the Cowboys skill players can beat in coverage. If you can bottle up the run, then you need to disrupt the timing of the passing game. The Cowboys rely on timing, so jamming receivers or re-routing them by proper positioning can disrupt that. Of course, you want to get pressure on Romo, but that can be dangerous. Romo can slip the pass rush and throw for big plays, he did it several times against the Redskins last week."

The pass rush of the Dolphins versus the improved line play of the Cowboys should be interesting to watch.  But, just as Halprin discusses the improved play of the line here, early he pointed out that the Redskins took advantage of "uneven" play from the Cowboys offensive line last week.  Hopefully, the uneven play is the play the Dolphins get this week.