Last season against the Detroit Lions, to say the least, was a complete and total
That loss was painful for quite a few reasons, but the fact that they lost by a single point with 12 seconds left, in a game where the Lions rallied back from a 10-point fourth quarter deficit simply made it even worse. While that loss to Matthew Stafford and company was rough, we shouldn't expect to see anything like that as head into the big game on Sunday afternoon. Why, you ask? Let's take a look at a few things that we should expect to see change.
Calvin Johnson's 2013 Domination
Unless you were living under a rock last year, you remember the 14 catch, 329 yard performance (with one touchdown) from Calvin Johnson. Johnson absolutely dominated the Cowboys' secondary, and specifically Brandon Carr. Carr has already hit on the topic, stating the following:
"Last year, he got the best of us," Carr said. "The good thing about football is you get a chance to do it again. Now we're back in the same position with more at stake. I'm looking forward to the opportunity."
While Carr can't fully be blamed for Johnson's huge day, the Cowboys are obviously going to need more from him in the first round of the 2014 Playoffs. Fortunately, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli should give him some help this year, instead of leaving him to play one-on-one with Megatron. Regardless, Carr will be ready for the matchup, and will at least be prepared to bounce back from last year's disaster.
One other thing worth pointing out, and it shouldn't be any type of disrespect towards Johnson, is the fact that he's only topped 100 yards five times in 2014. While leaving Johnson to face single coverage is asking for a disaster, the numbers show that things just haven't been clicking as we've seen in the past between Matthew Stafford and Johnson. In defense of the superstar wide out, he was dealing with a few lingering injuries through the middle part of the 2014 season, but we've seen that it's more than possible to at least slow him down.
The Road Woes Of Matthew Stafford
Coy Wire of FOX Sports put it best when breaking down Stafford's struggles:
"The Detroit Lions never have beaten a team with a winning record on the road with Matthew Stafford as their starting quarterback - 0-17 against teams above
.500. Yes, this is true. Another note of intrigue is that only one of the Lions' 11 wins this season has come against a team that currently has a winning record."
It's also worth noting that the Lions faced five playoff teams in total this year, and four of those games were on the road. As for how Stafford and company did in those games? Well, they were outscored 102-42, while turning the ball over six times. The Lions went an impressive 7-1 at home this year, but Stafford's road struggles could end up being a major talking point when all is said and done Sunday evening. The bend but don't break defense of the Cowboys are unlikely to allow Stafford to throw
The Missing Run Game And Injured DeMarco Murray
Let's not forget one last key thing, which is that the Cowboys' run game was basically non-existent last year against the Lions. As a whole, the team rushed 26 times for 62 yards, and Joseph Randle received 14 carries for just 26 yards. It was a brutal game for any running back on the Cowboys' roster, and Murray didn't play in this game. With Murray back, an offensive line that is one of the best (if not the best) in the entire NFL, and Randle running like a man with a purpose, we should see the Cowboys hitting the Lions with a little bit of everything. As strong as the run defense of Detroit has been in 2014, Murray and company will at least make life for Tony Romo and the passing game a bit easier on Sunday.