This game will mean a TON to the Cowboys. Either the Eagles or the Giants will be at sitting at 3-1 after this week, and the other will be at 2-2. The Redskins could also be at 2-2 after this weekend, but if they lose, 1-3. The Cowboys would do well to win before their bye week. I see them losing to the Ravens, so it would be a good thing for them to take that game with a winning record. going 3-1 means remaining tied for the NFC East lead. Falling to 2-2 means losing the good grip they have now. This game is also very important to the Bears. Their offense is a mess, but much like the Cowboys, their defense is keeping them in the battle for the division. To the Bears, this game means finally getting on their legs and staying a step ahead of what will be the probably 2-2 Packers. Here are the key matchups of this game:
J'Webb is having quite a tough time so far this season. Not only is he getting beaten up by opposing players, but it looks like the very QB his job is to protect is being a bully to him. Webb needs to step up in this game, because while the Bears do not have much talent on the O-line, they have quite the depth. Webb has to be looking over his shoulder, as there is a particular tackle with the ability to take his spot as the starter. His task will be to stop the best pass rusher in football: Mr. DeMarcus Ware. Ware already has 4 sacks and two forced fumbles this season. He is the second fastest player in NFL history to have reached 100 career sacks. J'Webb will not be looking forward to facing Ware, but he won't be alone. The Bears will quickly realize that they have to give Webb some help, which they will provide him with by sliding over other linemen. But look for Ware to still nab a couple sacks on Cutler, and provide tons of pressure as well, as he wins this battle in a defensive marathon.
This is almost the same battle as the one mentioned above. When it comes to pressure on the QB, the Bears count on Peppers. He is an absolute monster, almost a DeMarcus Ware on the other defense. While he can't call himself the best pass rusher, he comes very, very close. He is an incredible athlete, who is fast off the ball, and amazingly strong. Doug Free is terrible this year, and Tyron Smith is having tough growing pains in his first year at NFL level left tackle and only 21 years of age. Just like I see Ware abusing the Bears line, I see Peppers grabbing Romo and throwing him to the ground twice and getting close a few more times. Long night for the Cowboys offensive line. (Painful just imagining it in my head...Romo, please stay safe. Prayers for you.)
The Bears corners are having a fun time this year, with Jennings already responsible for four picks in just three games, and Tillman doing a great job locking down his man if not being the same ballhawk. But don't be fooled by Tillman's lack of turnovers; he is a great playmaker who just hasn't gotten his opportunity yet. Romo will not be happy every time against them, as they are good at taking out two receivers from the passing options for 90 percent of the plays. The only reason I see the Cowboys winning this matchup is because they are lucky enough to have more passing options than the elite cover men the Chicago has. On most plays, one of these three receivers will be lined up against Kelvin Hayden, who has lost his earlier form, and will still have Murray or Witten (I see him finally pulling it together this time) to throw to. But this is still dangerous and if Romo gets hurried and makes mistakes, this could turn into a nightmare scenario for Dallas.
Chicago has been waiting a loooooong time for something more on their offense than Matt Forte, and they pretty much hit the jackpot this year. They were able to corral Brandon Marshall, an elite and not-talked-about-enough receiver and Jefferey is a rookie who is developing and performing quite nicely. While Carr will most likely see safety in this game, I still like rotating our safeties between Carr, Jenkins, and Scandrick. Claiborne will remain at corner and has been basically shutdown this year. Jenkins is back to performing at his pro bowl level of 2009 and Carr has put his name in the ballot box for one of the leagues best corners so far. I think Dallas is deep enough and talented enough to lockdown Jeffery, and at least frustrate Marshall. I think Marshall might be the first receiver to score on Dallas this year, but still won't break to peak performance in this game. The Cowboys corners will do a good job of keeping them contained, but might let up more than previous games also.
Cowboys Game Plan: The Cowboys might have a tough time versus the Bears, as they are a top ten team against both pass and run. However, there might be some light for the Cowboys on offense. Jay Cutler is a turnover machine this year, and while they haven't shown it yet, the Cowboys corners are set up to be ballhawks between Jenkins, Carr, Claiborne, and (surprisingly mentioned here, with cornerbacks) Sean Lee. Hopefully, they can take advantage of the pressure Ware will provide and let the Cowboys have the ball often and give the offense short field, The offense also has more passing options than the Bears can cover. Murray has the attributes to be a receiving back, Austin is great on the outside or inside. Bryant is a deep threat that is just waiting to blow up, Witten is still great is he can just remember that hes supposed to get the ball BEFORE it hits the turf like hes been doing consistently for the past ten years, and Kevin Ogletree is a nice surprise who is playing like a starter so far. I think Dallas should stick with the pass despite the danger of the pass rush against them and take advantage of the mismatches that might present themselves. This game should be a passing attack, but the focus should not be Bryant of Austin. On defense, they just need to do what they have been doing great for these past 3 games: cover the receivers well with their shiny new inventory of corners, pass rush effectively with Hatcher, Spencer, and Ware, and use the athletic linebackers to make solid tackles and cover backs. I think the Dallas D has what it takes to shut down Jay Cutler and his crew.
Bears Game Plan The Bears will hope to keep the game defensive. They don't have enough firepower to get through the number one ranked Dallas defense, but have lots to make moving the ball hard for Dallas. Look for the Bears to try and lock down Romo's first pass reads and get the rushers to him, and also have what it takes to deny Murray another big night.
Quarter by Quarter:
Q1 Dallas will try to find soft spots against the Bears defense, but won't get in rhythm on their first drive. Romo will take his first sack of the day (via Henry Melton) on a seond down, third down will be too long against the Bears stud corners, and Jay Cutler will get the ball, only to face the same. I don't see Dallas getting a sack this early, but the secondary not allowing too many first downs to happen. A couple back and forth drives will follow, with both offenses sputtering, until Dallas gets stopped deep in their own territory and Jay Cutler will have a short field, allowing the first TD of the game, and first time a receiver scores against Dallas, on a 10 yard reception to Marshall. Bears lead 7-0
Q2 Romo will look to make matters right, but still can't get it done and takes a second sack. Dallas gives the ball back up, but our secondary gets it's first turnover, allowing a field short enough to get a field goal. 7-3. Dallas is able to stop the Bears again and gets the ball back inside their own twenty. Romo hits a good stride until the redzone where he throws a couple incomplete passes into the endzone, but it's enough for another field goal to pull Dallas closer. None of the teams score again in the first half, and it goes to halftime, bears up 7-6.
Q3 The Bears look like they are burning the D on one drive, but get stalled near the 40, and have to punt again. Dallas is deep in their own territory, but Romo make a connection to Austin deep and eventually, the Cowboys find themselves on the opposite side of the 50 with a chance to take the lead. The Cowboys gradually get into the redzone, and the Bears make a slight miscue to allow a Romo-to-Dez TD. Dallas takes the lead 13-7. The Bears are not wanting to go to the fourth down by six, so they are able to get in a field goal before the final period begins. 13-10, Dallas has a narrow lead.
Q4 Dallas is walking on eggshells here, and Romo makes a late game mistake and throws his fourth pick of the season as he tries to take a shot deep down the field. The Bears slowly pound their way into the 20 with about 6 minutes left, but Rob Ryan hold and forces a field goal again. The game is again tied 13-13. Dallas has only 5 and a half minutes. They make a drive into Bears territory, but Romo is sacked twice on the drive and Dallas punts again with only a minute and a half to two minutes remaining. It is not enough for Cutler and Co. to do anything as the Cowboys force their first OT game of the season.
OT: Dallas is able to stall the Bears for a while, until they can move the ball across the 50. Romo takes another sack, but on third down, Romo goes Houdini again and finds Ogletree deep to set up a field goal for Dan Bailey. Bailey is still perfect on the season as he knocks it down to win the game 16-13. The stadium explodes. Jerry needs a ton of money to repaired the shattered glass.
Romo: 26/38 285 yards 1TD 1INT
Murray: 18 rush, 75 yards
Bryant: 6 rec, 90 yards, 1TD
Austin: 4 rec, 70 yards
Ogletree: 4 rec, 50 yards
Witten: 4 rec, 50 yards
Lee: 14 tackles, 1 pass defended
Ware: 6 tackles, 3 sacks
Claiborne: 4 tackles, 1 INT
Cutler: 18/34 185 yards, 1TD, 1INT
Forte/Bush: 25 rush, 100 yards
Marshall: 6 rec, 110 yards, 1TD
Jeffery: 3 rec, 40 yards
Peppers: 4 tackles, 2 sacks
Rest of Bears D-Line: 8 tackles, 3 sacks
Tillman: 5 tackles, 1INT
Please leave comments! I would also love to see some Bears fans here to join in the discussion. But please remember that football is not the most important thing (unless you are involved for financial reasons in the NFL) so lets not be hostile please!
Thanks for reading!