It’s cliche to call a high-scoring game a shootout. But that’s exactly what this was, as Peyton Manning and Tony Romo matched each other shot for shot with a wind-swept Texas town as the backdrop.
The ending was as predictable as a Clint Eastwood western. Romo, after the finest performance of his career, was destined to lose the dramatic showdown. That’s just what he does.
A blue star is on his helmet, but he’s no superstar.
“I’m not really a Romo fan, and I was just amazed at how he slipped out of trouble in the pocket and was making plays,” MGM Resorts sports book director Jay Rood said. “Of course, the classic Romo showed up at the end. I’ve always said the clutch factor makes great quarterbacks, and Romo is just the opposite of clutch.”
Manning and the Denver Broncos won 51-48, but it was mainly Romo losing the final duel, even though underdog bettors walked away with the fistful of dollars. It was a phenomenal game, the wildest of the NFL season’s first five weeks, and Romo will be remembered for pulling up lame.
Disrespected by the betting public all week, the Dallas Cowboys fired back Sunday with an offensive effort that could have defined their season. Romo passed for 506 yards and five touchdowns. The score was tied with two minutes to go. He was in position to shoot down Manning.
“You were almost waiting for it to happen,” South Point oddsmaker Jimmy Vaccaro said, “and it happened.”
Romo stepped up in the pocket and threw a bullet across the middle that was intercepted at Dallas’ 24-yard line. Denver drained the clock and finished it with a field goal as time expired.
“Romo is going to get barbecued in Dallas,” Vaccaro said. “I don’t care about the 500 yards. It means nothing,”
The result did mean something. Las Vegas bookmakers made out like bandits. The public bet the Broncos, 7½-point favorites, with no fear as tickets on Denver came in at about a 7-to-1 ratio.
“It was as good as it gets,” Vaccaro said. “Naturally, it’s even better when you win it. Obviously, it was the biggest game of the day, and we won it.”
If anyone wonders why NFL betting is insanely popular, this game was why. The score went over the total of 57½ midway through the third quarter when Romo hit Terrance Williams with an 82-yard touchdown throw.
“It reminded me of an Arena game. It was fun to watch,” Sunset Station sports book director Chuck Esposito said. “All of our sports books were busy. Everybody really came out.”
The bettors came early for eight 10 a.m. games, and a handful of diehards stayed late for the San Diego-Oakland kickoff at 8:30 p.m. Favorites and underdogs split the 12 games, capped by the Raiders’ upset win.
The books won the second-biggest result of the day when New England, a 2-point favorite, fell 13-6 at Cincinnati. Tom Brady’s streak of 52 consecutive games with a touchdown pass died in the driving rain.
“The Patriots were the key to our day,” Rood said. “Every parlay was going through the Patriots and we had a lot of straight-bet money on them, as well.”
With the Patriots going down and the Seattle Seahawks running out of luck in Indianapolis, only three undefeated teams are left standing. Kansas City and New Orleans are each 5-0.
The Chiefs, favored by 2½ to 3 at Tennessee, rallied to cover in a 26-17 win. The Titans had one play to beat the spread, but with two seconds left, they trotted out Rob Bironas for a meaningless 32-yard field goal attempt. Bironas missed, fittingly, and that was bizarre.
“The Cowboys, Colts and Bengals were good decisions that went our way,” Esposito said. “The Chiefs, Saints and Packers were good for our guests.”
Green Bay won and covered with no sweat, as did favorites Philadelphia, San Francisco and St. Louis. A bad Rams team roughed up the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars, 11-point underdogs who jumped ahead 7-0 and lost 34-20.
It would be adsurd to say sharp money was on the ’dog, because no money wagered on the Jaguars is sharp. Jacksonville is 0-5 against the spread and threatening to go 0-16.
Manning and the Broncos are the biggest favorites in NFL history this week, laying 28 points to the Jaguars, who have scored a total of 51 points in five weeks.
“You’re not stealing anything taking plus-28 with this team,” Vaccaro said.
In the end, Romo, who played so heroically until the final two-minute warning, wound up cast as both the villain and a sympathetic character.
“You do feel a little bit for Romo,” Esposito said. “It seems like more times than not he’s on the wrong end of those games.”
But a small group of outcasts — Cowboys bettors — were on the right side of the shootout.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.