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Dallas Cowboys Gameplan: Who Said This Isn't A Must Win Game? It Sure Is For Brandon Weeden...

The Dallas Cowboys (2-1) are set to take on the woeful (0-3) New Orleans Saints on Sunday Night Football. Whoever spoke about this not being a must-win game, spoke incorrectly.

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How could this not be a must-win game for the Dallas Cowboys? Sure, there are plenty of games left in the season but the Cowboys have a job to do. That job is to stay alive in the NFC race, not just the divisional race. By starting 2-0 and having both wins come at the expense of their divisional foes helps, but Dallas needs to win games, period.

Nobody cares that the Cowboys are going to be without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. This is the NFL, if you made it to the dance, there is a reason for that. All of the coming opponents are going to go about their business regardless of who is behind center and who is catching the passes for the Dallas Cowboys. Last week's late-game thumping by the Falcons is certainly not a good taste in the mouths of these players and it must be corrected.

For Brandon Weeden, 22 of 26 for 232 yards and an 85% completion rate is nice, but getting the victory is the ultimate goal and the Cowboys failed to achieve that last week. They also failed to get their receivers involved and relied heavily on underneath passing routes which the Falcons swallowed up after the first half. The playbook must open up for the Cowboys if they plan on securing a victory against the Saints on the road. Part of that is on the coaching but a lot can be placed on the quarterback. He needs to trust his eyes because he already has the arm. New Orleans has struggled in their secondary and Weeden needs to make them pay for it.

Stephen Jones has remained adamant that this team plans to win in the wake of some unfortunate injuries. The front office has also talked about not wanting Weeden to be looking over his shoulder. Unfortunately, they can say that all they want but the reality is that Weeden must win games or they will turn eventually to Matt Cassel.

"There’s always a competition," Jones said. "It's different when you’re Tony Romo, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. Everybody knows it’s their team. Brandon knows Cassel is in here, and if he doesn’t play well there’s a competition there. Jason (Garrett) has been pretty clear about that."

The Cowboys have to find a way to sustain drives and finish games. In the early portion of the Falcons game, the offense was moving the ball with ease and avoiding third downs by opting to convert on first and second instead. However, the life was sucked from this team in that second half.

The New Orleans Saints are a desperate team and they will present opportunities on both sides of the ball for the Cowboys to take advantage. Of course, it is hard to call this game a must-win so early in the season, but if you look at the upcoming schedule, getting wins this early is important. Dallas will now have to deal with Drew Brees as he makes his return to the lineup. However, it's not been all aces from the former Pro Bowler.

In two games, Brees has completed over 60% of his passes as expected but has thrown only two touchdowns along with two interceptions. Brees has also been sacked six times and has lost two fumbles. Without the protection that he's used to, he's taken a beating and has averaged 43 passes per game. Offensively, the Saints have moved the ball well enough through the air but have struggled on the ground and especially in the red zone. They currently sit at 20th in the league in points averaging 20 per game and are 27th in the league in rushing. The offensive line has had some issues with continuity and have had to deal with a banged-up Jahri Evans.

Defensively speaking, the Saints are a dysfunctional bunch to say the least. In Rob Ryan's third season, the Saints rank near the bottom in every category. They are currently giving up 28 points per game (27th), 397 yards per game (29th), 271 passing yards per game (23rd), and 126 rushing yards per game (26th). If the Cowboys can't find a way to score on this defense then they are in trouble.

This is absolutely a game where the offensive line needs to get back on track. Ronald Leary will return and nothing against La'el Collins, but he hasn't earned that spot just yet. These Cowboys must run the football and stuff it down the throat of a porous defense. If the offensive line can show their dominance early, this is the type of game they can pound away with Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden and possibly Christine Michael (if he makes the 46). Dallas has to execute against a bad team, and a steady running game is the best way to get back on track.

Another issue that must be rectified is the problem with the receivers and their ability to help Weeden. Bryan Broaddus was very upset to see Terrance Williams and Gavin Escobar hand-fighting with the defenders. After looking at the game again, I have to agree. Don't worry about all that mess and just get open and make plays. They have to do a better job and help this offense go. It's hard enough to be without Dez Bryant and Tony Romo, but that's where someone needs to step up and decide they are going to make the play. Dallas has to open this offense up and give Weeden the opportunity to make plays downfield.

Now onto the Cowboys defense, which practically imploded against Atlanta, and was really feeling the effects of missing key contributors. They have to wait one more week for Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain but having Jeremy Mincey back in the rotation certainly helps. Dallas has to set the edge in this game because if they don't, watch out for Mark Ingram. Overall, last week seems to be less of a condemnation of the defense and more a result of missing pieces. The defensive line has to understand that over-pursuing will get them in trouble. The corners weren't bad and Morris Claiborne was actually very good. Look, guys like Julio Jones are going to win a lot. Dallas has Dez Bryant who himself is a nightmare for opposing defenses. The Cowboys cannot allow Sean Lee to get tied up again and they must get some push against the Saints offensive line. Establish a rhythm through stunts or what-have-you to get to the quarterback. This defense needs a bounce back in a big way.

It may seem that there is a lot to talk about only after one loss but the way they lost warranted criticism. The team must keep the train on the tracks in order to have a chance at competing once the cavalry rolls back in. This is not a team that is going to roll over, they have high aspirations in mind. Though November 22nd can't come soon enough, they must stack some wins to give Tony Romo a chance. It starts with beating the (0-3) New Orleans Saints with or without Drew Brees.


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