When the Cowboys host the champion New England Patriots on Sunday, the usual optimism won't be filling AT&T Stadium. Before the season started, this game was already being billed as a tough task for Dallas, but it has gotten a lot tougher without some of the teams star players. Do the Cowboys even stand a chance? Well, it won't be easy, but this team knows they have their backs against the wall and it is time to bring the fight.
Here are three things that Dallas will need to do in order to beat New England on Sunday.
Take away their cash-kowski
The Cowboys defense has done an admirable job shutting down their opponent's top offensive weapon so far this season. Odell Beckham Jr, DeMarco Murray, and Brandin Cooks were all non-factors. Only Julio Jones hurt them.
For the Patriots, that top weapon will be Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots tight end is averaging over 100 yards a game and has four TDs in only three games. Cowboy's rookie Byron Jones has been called on regularly to cover the tight ends and he's done a fine job. Jones has great athleticism that will come in handy while trying to keep with up with Gronk. The Cowboys will allocate more resources to limit the Pat's big play making pass catcher, but Jones is a good start.
The Pittsburgh Steelers didn't use anyone to cover Gronkowski on this play in week one. It was a matchup he won easily.
Give them a taste of their own medicine
The Patriots offense does a good job forcing the defense to run amok. Tom Brady likes to spray the ball all over the field as he dissects the defense and exploit mismatches. Julian Edelman is like a better known version of Cole Beasley. He is going to be a tough cover for Tyler Patmon. So expect a lot of pass, pass, pass....and then when the Cowboys defense is tired, it's time for the Patriots to switch gears to the running game. At that point, they'll proceed to beat you with a heavy dose of LaGarrette Blount.
New England loves to overload the front line with extra blockers when they run the ball. Here is a running play against Jacksonville. There are a couple things to note. To start with, it's a first down run, not a goal line or third and inches run. But not only are there seven big strong blockers on the line of scrimmage, the Patriots have a backup offensive lineman, Shaq Mason (circled), playing fullback. This will be a bad thing to see if the Cowboys defense starts wearing down.
And the Cowboys defense don't handle extra blockers too well when they are tired. Here is what the Saints front line looked like during Mark Ingram's touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Can you guess which direction Ingram went?
That is what the Patriots do. So the Cowboys need to turn the table, pull the ol' switcheroo, or whatever you call it when you do to them what they to do you.
Dallas needs to get their passing game going out of the gate. Establishing the running game is important, but they have to give their offensive line a fighting chance to take on a reasonable amount of blockers. In order to hang with New England, the Cowboys offense will have to put it in high gear and put some points on the board. I know it pains fans to think along these lines, but it's time to take the training wheels off of Brandon Weeden. Let him run the offense like he did in the final drive against the Saints. If Dallas can get some form of passing game going, then they can switch gears to the run and try to pound a tired Patriots defense.
Defense - selective aggression
In a perfect world, the Cowboys game plan for beating the Patriots high powered offense would be a nice ball-control offense to keep Brady and company off the field. But things are far from perfect. In order to beat New England, the Cowboys defense is going to have to come through and make plays.
The Patriots are sly. Brady will change formations, move guys around, and he'll do this repeatedly until he has somehow finagled a way get your punter covering Gronkowski. I don't know how they do it, but if you wait long enough, they'll find a matchup they like so they can make you look ridiculous and secretly mock you after the game.
The Cowboys defense needs to be sharp. There can't be any confusion. Players need to communicate well and know their assignment and they must be quick to adjust. If the stars align just right and Sean Lee is able to play, the Cowboys may end up having three middle linebackers on the field. This should make for a very sharp group and help provide the leadership the defense needs.
Smart play can help prevent against a big letdown, but it won't get you off the field. You got to be willing to take some chances. Greg Hardy is back so the defensive line will get a big boost this week. So make it count. With pass rushers of Hardy, DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, and Jeremy Mincey - the Cowboys have some fuel in the tank along the line so they need to crank it up and go! If you want to beat New England, you have to rattle Brady. And if you can't do it with four, do it with five. The Cowboys have been effective blitzing this season when they've done it. Problem is - they just don't hardly do it. What better time to try when you feel like you've got nothing to lose.
Those are a few ways the Cowboys could shock the league and come away with a victory. What do you think needs to happen in order to take the Patriots down?
|Don’t forget to resister for our Blogging the Boys meet-up!
Oct 24-25, 2015
Cowboys-Giants in the beautiful Poconos
|Three awesome Cowboys-centric events!|
|Saturday, October 24
(8:00-10:00 PM): Dinner the night before the game
|Sunday, October 25
(9:00 AM - 1:00 PM): Pre-game brunch
|Sunday, October 25
(4:30-8:30 PM) Cowboys-Giants game, with free buffet
|Click Here to RSVP||Click here for more information on pricing, lodging, etc.|