For over half a century the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants have faced off twice a year to determine which team is better. Between the two franchises, there are a total of nine Lombardi trophies and more than a few legends who have helped to build these storied organizations and who have been immortalized in Canton, Ohio at the Pro Football Hall Of Fame. On Sunday, the two squads will add another chapter to their shared history. Like everyone else here at Blogging The Boys, I am looking forward to a hard fought Dallas victory, but nothing is assured. Let's take a look at what the Cowboys need to do to bring about that much needed win.
Shut Down The Dance Floor
This season, Eli Manning's most potent receiving weapon has been Victor Cruz. As I remember, the dancer had quite a productive evening when the two teams last met in Dallas to open the 2013 regular season, and a quick check of the official gamebook proved my memory to be correct. Mr. Cruz delivered five catches for 118 yards against Dallas. He also performed three rounds of his version of the "Boot-Scootin' Boogey" in the Cowboys end zone. This time around, the good guys cannot allow that to happen, and the bulk of the responsibility for closing the dance floor is going to fall squarely on the shoulders of Orlando Scandrick. In reviewing game one, what stood out to me was that Scandrick had a good game covering Cruz. At first glance, you might question that, but the fact is that Scandrick allowed the Giants wide out three catches for only 26 yards. The real culprit in allowing Cruz to put up some big numbers was Will Allen, who has since departed for Pittsburgh. If Scandrick can turn in a similar outing and get some help from the returning J.J. Wilcox, who replaced Allen in the Cowboys secondary, this is a battle that Monte Kiffin's defense can win.
Get Up Close And Personal With Eli Manning
For Dallas, this is a two part challenge. The outside rushmen, primarily DeMarcus Ware and George Selvie, can bring some heat. DWare will be spending his day matched up with Will Beatty and while the Giants left tackle has looked better as the season has progressed, #94 should win that battle pretty convincingly; provided, of course, that he has recovered from his quadriceps injury. On the other side of the line, George Selvie, who has found a home among Rod Marinelli's rushmen, will ply his craft against rookie Justin Pugh. While in the long run Pugh will likely prove to be a much better player than Selvie, for now school is still in session and the journeyman defensive end has some lessons left to teach. I fully expect that the outside pass rush to be able to get to Manning, but for them to be successful, they will need help in the middle. Jason Hatcher will need to bring his own kind of heat. Facing off against the Giants backup center Jim Cordle and backup guard David Diehl, Hatch must eliminate Manning's ability to step up into the pocket, thus avoiding Ware and Selvie. Also with the Giants going to more short routes and Eli taking three-step drops, it is vital that Hatcher takes advantage of his shorter path to the quarterback. If all three rushmen can get to Eli and do so quickly and consistently, they will force the younger Manning into mistakes. Once that happens, the Cowboys should be able to assert some dominance in the game.
Break Out The Beast
Dallas is going to have to get Dez Bryant going early and often. Far to frequently, he has been an afterthought for the Cowboys offense and that must change. Bunch formations, motion plays, moving Bryant into the slot; whatever it takes, Dez must get plenty of touches. He and New York corner Prince Amukamara will be spending a lot of quality time together on Sunday, no doubt joined by an over the top safety, but #88 can still do a lot of damage to the G-men. Jason Garrett, Bill Callahan, and Tony Romo need to make it a priority to use their most effective weapon. If Bryant can be effective when the Giants scheme to take him away, that will free up everybody else to inflict further damage on the New York defense. That will go a long way toward finally getting the lackluster offense back into the rhythm that they demonstrated against the other Manning brother and his Denver Broncos.
Protect The Most Valuable Asset
While the vaunted New York front four is not nearly what it used to be, they can still get after the passer. The biggest concern will be Jason Pierre-Paul, who is hitting his stride after off season back surgery. JPP will often be matched up against left tackle Tyron Smith, who over the last few weeks has found himself facing a few struggles. He has recently faced issues with some of the better outside rushers and this week he faces one who is as good as they come. For Dallas to find success, Tony Romo is going to have to get on track, and it is a heck of a lot easier to do that if he is not getting hammered into the turf on play after play. Across the board, the Dallas offensive line is going to be challenged and for the Cowboys to prevail, they must respond.
Coming out of the bye week, the Dallas Cowboys face many unanswered questions. There are many potentially good answers available to the team but it is going to take a serious re-dedication and determination to make the remaining six games a reflection of what this team should be. Against the New York Giants, Dallas will have its first opportunity to step up and take what they want. It will not come easy and success will be determined by the results of smaller battles within the bigger picture, such as the ones above. Win the battles consistently then you will win the war. Easier said than done, of course, but that is the only route to success in the National Football League. The time for talk is done, all that remains is to determine how the Cowboys will respond.