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Is Tony Romo the most trustworthy person in professional sports?
After his performance predicting plays before they happened in Sunday’s AFC championship game, he may well be. The CBS color man was called one of the stars of the exceptional game despite never taking a snap. Partner Jim Nantz labeled him “Romo-stradmus” after nailing one play. Baseball star Bryce Harper said Romo knows where he’ll be signing, even if no one else does.
And so we were curious as to exactly how accurate Romo actually was Sunday, so we went back and watched a rebroadcast. By our count, Romo issued a total of 15 pre-snap predictions and his success rate was pretty staggering: 12 correct calls, 2 incorrect predictions and 1 that was kinda/sorta right.
What’s interesting is that 13 of the 15 predictions came when the Patriots had the ball and one of the two Chiefs predictions centered more on the Patriots’ defensive scheme. That suggests two things: 1) Romo is more comfortable with the Patriots considering there’s a lot more tape on Tom Brady than Patrick Mahomes. Or 2) New England simply gave him more during midweek production meetings. (To be a fly on the wall for those chats between Belichick and Romo.)
What’s also fun about our breakdown is that you’ll see Romo’s predictions run the spectrum of plugged-in insider (ie: audibles, schemes, breakdowns) to average football fan with a high-percentage hunch (ie: running a draw on a long-distance down). Since Romo’s success is based on being both a highly-informed football junkie and relatable to the average fan, it’s interesting to see it play out that way over the 15 calls he made on Sunday.
Romo only made two predictions in the first half, which is traditionally packed with roster intros, sideline updates, ad reads and other things that help everyone get introduced to the game.
Patriots ball: 3rd and 4, KC 49
Romo prediction: “Historically this is where the Chiefs have made it difficult on Tom Brady. They pack the middle of the field and make him throw it outside. You’re going to see a lot of people on the inside part of the field and they don’t want him to throw little crosses.”
Was he right?: Yes. With five down linemen, Brady took a shotgun snap and handed it to James White, who ran five yards off tackle for a first down.
Patriots ball: 2nd and 7, KC 30
Romo prediction: “You’re going to see him get to the line of scrimmage and have two plays. You’re not going to have near as much motion or stacks and bunches as they normally do. You’re going to have one guy moving a little bit, but Brady wants everyone to know their job.”
Was he right?: Yes and no. One receiver took a few steps in motion, but three receivers were bunched in a set to the right. And Brady took the snap from the shotgun, never approaching the line. We’ll mark it Romo’s only tie of the day.
Patriots ball: 3rd and 17, KC 32
Romo prediction: “This almost has to be a draw”
Was he right?: Yes. This is the type of prediction most of us can make from the couch, but credit where credit is due. James White took a draw for two yards to set up a 47-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal.
As the game got really exciting, Romo kicked up his excitement level while also seemingly reporting straight from Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s brains as they took apart the Chiefs defense.
Patriots ball: 3rd and 2, KC 27
Romo prediction: “Kansas City has to stop these little run routes. It’s man-to-man, but they have to run over the top of somebody and these inside linebackers or guys in the middle of the field have to bubble over someone … It’s the same thing here” (Romo points out Chiefs LB Anthony Hitchens spying on James White in backfield)
Was he right?: Yes. Hitchens assisted in tackling White short of first down
Patriots ball: 4th and inches, KC 25
Romo prediction: “It’s a quarterback sneak or it’s a run. If he sees the QB sneak, he’ll snap it right away and go. If not, they’ll run it on the edge. It’s hard to stop both. If you condense the front and put everyone over center, we’re going to run the ball wide on the edge. If you don’t, we’re quarterback sneaking it.”
Was he right? No. Brady snapped the ball and handed it up the middle to Burkhead, who was stuffed for a turnover on downs. “I can’t believe they just did that, wow!” Romo said, perhaps as surprised as we were that he was wrong.
Chiefs ball: 3rd and 8, KC 27
Romo prediction: “Cover zero, Jim. Now the game’s on the line. Cover zero means everyone’s coming. You got to get this ball out.
Was he right? Yes. The Patriots did blitz and Mahomes was forced to throw the ball away out of bounds almost immediately .
Patriots ball: 2nd and 8, NE 45
Romo prediction: (Brady in shotgun with RB James White to left) “Now they’re going to get in the dropback game. You can hand this ball off to the right.”
Was he right? No. Brady tried to connect with Gronkowski down the right sideline but the pass was incomplete.
Patriots ball: 4th and inches, KC 9
Romo prediction: “Oh they’re killing it. It usually means motion and a run-out wide to the right.”
Was he right? Yes. Gronkowski went into motion almost immediately and Sony Michel ran to the right for a touchdown that gave Patriots a 24-21 lead with 3:32 remaining
Chiefs ball: 2nd and 10, KC 32
Romo prediction: “Here we go, man to man. Let’s see if [New England’s D] doubles on Tyreek Hill who’s in the slot up top.”
Was he right? Yes. Hill ran right into the double team with the safety high and Mahomes instead passed the ball to Travis Kelce, who dropped it.
Patriots ball: 3rd and 5 from KC 29
Romo prediction: “I gotta put Gronkowski out wide! They’ve gotta get him. He’s your guy when it’s one on one. They finally got him. There he is (circles Gronkowski matchup at top of screen). If he’s doubled, they’re going to throw it inside here to Edelman (circles Edelman).
Was he right? Yes. Gronkowski caught a 25-yard pass down to Chiefs’ four. “He saw what you saw, Tony!” Nantz yelled after the play. “Romo-stradamus!”
Patriots ball: 1st and goal from KC 4
Romo prediction: “They’re going to run this ball. Kansas City has to sell out.”
Was he right? Yes, KC’s defense did sell out, but Burkhead scored anyway to give the Pats a 31-28 lead with under a minute to go in regulation.
The only person more accurate than Tom Brady in OT was Tony Romo.
Patriots ball: 3rd and 9, NE 35
Romo prediction: “Gronk’s not outside. (Edelman goes into motion) You’ve got to shift with him, shift with him and throw to Edelman over the middle of the field.”
Was he right? Yes. Brady found Edelman over the middle of the field for 20 yards.
Patriots ball: 3rd and 10, KC 45
Romo prediction: “Here we go. Gronk has to chip, running backs gotta help so he has time to throw. Find Edelman in the middle of the field.”
Was he right? Yes. Brady to Edelman again for 15 yards over the middle.
Patriots ball: 3rd and 10, KC 30
Romo prediction: “Gronk is out wide. Watch the top of your screen. Watch the safety. If he comes down, there’s a good chance he’s throwing out there.”
Was he right? Yes. Brady found Gronk for 15 yards on a slant as the chains kept moving.
2nd and goal, KC 2
Romo prediction: “New England tried to play action earlier. I can’t see it here. This has to be a run.”
Was he right? Yes. This one was a slam dunk and a perfect cherry on the top as Burkhead piled into the end zone for a Patriots win and trip to the Super Bowl.
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