“For Tony Romo, it’s not over, but that’s… not good.” These were the words uttered by NBC’s excellent football analyst Cris Collinsworth after the Cowboys QB tossed his third interception of the game against Washington on December 30, 2012—a game that would send its winner to the playoffs and its loser… to the offseason.
And this particular late-game Romo blunder occurred with three minutes left and his team trailing by three points. So you could say it cost the Dallas Cowboys their season.
But hey, let’s not focus on the negative. Instead, let’s look at the man who actually, you know, made the clutch play. That would be Rob Jackson, an outside linebacker who was enjoying the best season of his career. A seventh-round draft pick in 2008, Jackson made 14 of his 15 career starts in 2012 in place of the injured Brian Orakpo. And he didn’t waste them, either, finishing the year with four-and-a-half sacks, four interceptions, two forced fumbles and even a touchdown.
“Tony Romo didn’t look before he threw it. He felt the pressure, he just threw it up, and I went and got it.”
But there was no play bigger than his Romo pick, which sent his team to the playoffs as division champs for the first time since 1999. We asked Jackson to recall how it all went down.
Can you walk us through the play?
I forget what the exact play was. I think it was a double A blitz, where both of the inside linebackers were blitzing. And the outside edge guys, we had man-to-man on the halfbacks. If they ran a flare route or something, we would pick them up. If they didn’t, we would rush. So I knew he had to get rid of the ball quick because we were blitzing, and I just stuck to my responsibility. DeMarco Murray flared out, I ran with him, and Tony Romo didn’t look before he threw it. He felt the pressure, he just threw it up, and I went and got it.
Is this something that you guys had worked on in practice in the week leading up to the game?
Oh yeah. That play was in the game plan. You know, every week we put different plays into the game plan, and that play was in there. So it was just the perfect call at the perfect time.
Did you guys feel like that was a play you could trick Romo with?
I wouldn’t necessarily say “trick.” But when the quarterback has less time to go through his progressions and read the defense, they’re destined for a mistake if they don’t know where they’re going, pre-snap. So the pressure got to him up the middle and he didn’t look where he was throwing the ball. He just knew he had a running back in the flat, so he threw it up.
Rumor has it they just saved a ton of money on their car insurance…
Alright, so you make the interception. What are you feeling at that point?
It didn’t really set in until I got to the bench and I sat down. That’s when I actually realized what happened. Because when you’re out on the field, you’ve got the adrenaline pumping and you’re trying to put good stuff on tape. So when it happened, I knew it was a big play, but I didn’t realize the magnitude of it until I actually sat down and saw the fans going crazy. And then, when our offense went down and scored, I realized, you know, that was the ballgame.
Did any of your teammates say something to you that you still remember?
No. I mean, I was jacked up, so if someone did say anything, I probably didn’t hear them.
Did Romo say anything to you afterwards?
No, he didn’t. He didn’t.
Would you consider that the greatest play of your football career?
Yeah, I would. I mean, I feel like I’ve made more athletic or smarter plays, but just with the circumstances—the drive and what was on the line. That was definitely the biggest play of my football career.
Is it the greatest moment of your life?
I wouldn’t say of my life. I would say of football, yeah. I wouldn’t say of my life, like outside of football. Because I’ve had a lot of experiences with family members and things like that that were greater moments in life.
Cris Collinsworth had a funny line about the play. I’m sure you’ve seen the replay. He said, “For Tony Romo, it’s not over, but that’s… not good.”
[Laughs] That’s the first time I’ve heard that.