The Cowboys begin their long awaited home game binge on Sunday when they host the Cleveland Browns. Dallas is coming off a huge road win in Philadelphia that saved the season, in which we saw some exciting plays from Romo, Bryant, Carr, and surprisingly Dwayne Harris. (This guys needs to do some more returns, he had a big one in ATL, and an even better one the very following week). The Giants will have lots to think about during their bye week this week, after a giftly timed (for the Cowboys) loss to the Bengals.
Although the Browns are only a 2 win team, and are led by a rookie RB, QB, and WR, they have a stingning defense, and in my opinion, are very underrated. With a coach and a couple more pieces, this is a team that can really compete in a couple seasons. They will give Dallas a harder fight than what they are used to and this game won't seem as close as it did at the beginning of the season.
DeMarcus Ware vs Joe Thomas This matchup will be very interesting. Joe Thomas is a very good pass blocker, one of the leagues best. DeMarcus Ware is a very good pass rusher, the leagues absolute best. I expect to see Joe Thomas have a very good day against Ware, as Ware doesn't get in the pocket often, and it relatively quiet as he records only one sack against Thomas. Although I see Thomas winning this matchup, I expect Ware to mix it up with blitzes from the left, right, and middle on his way to a 2-sack game from Ware.
Joe Haden vs Miles Austin/Dez Bryant Joe Haden is a great cornerback that can shut out receivers. If only he had good help from the other players. Haden will probably contain Austin for the first part of a play, but with a limited pass rush, I expect a clean pocket for Romo with plenty of throwing room, allowing Austin and Bryant enough time ti get separation from the Cleveland corners to get looks and passes. I see Austin/Bryant winning this matchup, but not because Haden isn't good enough.
Greg Little vs Morris Claiborne This will be another very interesting battle, as Greg Little is a rookie receiver having a great season thus far, and other than a hiccup last week and a few plays along his rookie path, Claiborne is having a great season as a corner. I expect Claiborne to absolutely dominate this matchup, as he is on a quest to redeem himself. Claiborne has already shut down the likes of Hakeem Nicks, Sidney Rice, and Mike Williams. Claiborne against a rookie will be fun to watch as Little get very few open looks, a low reception number, and does not have a very productive day against Claiborne.
Cleveland Game Plan The Browns have a good defense, but really don't have the firepower to win against Dallas. their best bet is to coach smarter than Dallas, and possibly take advantage of Dallas' weakened front 7 to pound the ball enough to maintain possession and move the ball along and score. The coaching and run game are both weak aspects of the Browns, so neither is likely, however Cleveland will not go down without a fight.
Dallas Game Plan The Cowboys need to do just a few things to ensure a win: stay focused, don't make stupid mistakes, coach halfway decent. This will be a winning formula for Dallas. Dallas is the better team: they have the better defense, better quarterback, better receivers, and are better in almost every category that matters. They just have to maintain focus and not let an easy game slip away from their fingers after fighting their way into the playoff race just the week before.
Quarter by Quarter
Q1 Cleveland will start with the opening kickoff. Both Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden will start off hot and get the offense rolling. They will stumble a bit after crossing the 50, but pull out another first down before being stopped to a field goal. 0-3. Dallas will come out looking to show the Browns that Dallas is a very tough team, but it won't happen. Dallas will go 3 and out after 2 short runs and an incomplete pass. The Browns will get the ball and a good return to give them favorable field position. Weeden will be shaky this time, but Richardson will pull out another couple good runs to take the ball inside the Dallas 40. Cleveland isn't able to convert the third down but knocks on another field goal. 0-6. Tony Romo and the offense will take the field again, and this time, they will play a little better. They will take it across the 50 before the first ends.
Q2 Felix Jones will come up with a nice run to put the ball in field goal range. On the next play, Romo will stand in the pocket with tons of time and finds Austin deep in the endzone for a TD to take the lead. 7-6. The Browns will go 3 and out on their next drive after Brandon Weeden is unable to connect deep with Little on third down. Dallas gets the offense going,but is stopped outside of field goal range and punts the ball away. Brandon Weeden starts taking deeper shots, and throws a pick to Brandon Carr while the Browns still have it on their side of the field. Carr gets a decent return before he is stopped at the Cleveland 40. Tony Romo finds a couple nice gains through the air, before a short completion to Bryant gets them another TD. 14-6. Brandon Weeden cannot do anything and it goes into halftime 14-6.
Q3 Tony Romo and Co. burn through the Cleveland defense on the opening possession of the third quarter. After getting inside the redzone, they make some questionable calls and Romo is sacked on third down to force a field goal. 17-6. Cleveland is once again unable to make anything happen, and Dallas gets the ball back. It is the same story for the Cowboys, and the Browns have the ball once again. this time, they take an ugly drive down into field goal range. After a good defensive stand, Dallas forces the field goal. 17-9. Tony Romo drives the Cowboys down the field and before the third ends, Dallas gets a long field goal in. 20-9.
Q4 The Browns bust out a big play near the opening of the fourth and are inside field goal range. Brandon Weeden negotiates his way to a first down, before finding a Massaquoi deep for a TD. They go for the two point conversion, which fails. 20-15. Dallas is feeling some pressure, as they are up by only one score in the fourth. It changes on this drive however, as Tony Romo is able to deal the Boys another field goal drive to solidify their lead, 23-15. With just a few minutes left, Weeden comes on the field, expected to lead a TD drive and attempt to send the game into OT. Early into the drive, Trent Richardson fumbles the ball and Bruce Carter is able to land on it to give the ball back to Dallas. Tony Romo quickly finds Dez deep for another TD to ice the game, 30-15. The Browns come back on in the waning seconds, where nothing happens.
Final Score: Dallas 30, Cleveland 15
Romo: 21/27 330 yds, 3 TD
Jones: 18 rush, 100 yards, 2 rec, 15 yds
Witten: 4 rec, 40 yds
Austin: 6 rec, 80 yds, TD
Bryant: 8 rec, 100 yds, 2TD
Claiborne: 2 passes defended, 2 tackles
Carr: 1 INT, 5 tackles
Ware: 6 tackles, 2 sacks
Weeden: 14/23, 180 yds, 1 TD, 1INT
Richardson: 25 rush, 100 yds, 1 Fumble
Little: 2 rec, 20 yds
Massaquoi: 4 rec, 50 yds, TD