When will the losing stop?! That must be the question for all Cowboys fans and they hope it ends today with the return of Tony Romo to the lineup. A season that was once filled with tons of hope is on life support but that doesn't mean that folks are giving up. In fact, Tony Romo has made it clear that the season isn't over just yet, "far from it" according to the Pro Bowl signal-caller. Now the Miami Dolphins look to put the proverbial stake in the Cowboys' heart this afternoon but Dallas is hanging on to what shred of playoff hopes they still have. How can they go out and get it done at Sun Life Stadium today?
When Dallas Has The Ball
Much like any game, the Cowboys have to establish the run against a Dolphins' defense that ranks 31st in the league at stopping it. Now that Tony Romo is back in the fold, Miami will have to respect the Cowboys rushing attack which ranks 9th in the NFL. Darren McFadden has been bothered by a groin injury but all signs point to him being a go in this game. He's really come along to over the past several weeks other than a down performance last week against a pretty decent Tampa Bay team. Behind McFadden looks be newly signed Robert Turbin, who has really impressed coaches with how fast he's come up to speed in this offense over the past few days. The Cowboys have to establish the run to give Romo time to get into rhythm. If they can keep the down and distance manageable, the Cowboys should be able to remain in offensive control against a front that over-pursues.
Dallas also needs to score points, I know that sounds crazy right? The Cowboys currently are scoring 18.4 points a game, which is 29th in the league and absolutely pathetic for a team with All-Pro weapons. The combinations of backup quarterbacks over the past few weeks have run this team into the ground and now Tony Romo is the only hope. The Cowboys were among the top offenses in the league when Romo was playing so the hope is that they can get back there rather soon. The Cowboys offensive line will certainly have to lead the charge by protecting Romo from the likes of Ndamukong Suh. The Dolphins have forced 14 turnovers this season and the Cowboys are the worst team in the league in turnover ratio. It's time to start flipping that statistic. The best thing for this offense will be a heavy dose of the marquee players. Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and Cole Beasley need to do their damndest to get their quarterback firing on all cylinders.
When Dallas Plays Defense
The Cowboys can play top-notch defense though their record and rankings wouldn't suggest it. The one area where having the Pro Bowl quarterback helps most is by extending drives and giving the defense ample time to rest. Make no mistake, the defense has kept this team in games over Romo's absence and now he must put them in position to close out games. The Cowboys have been excruciatingly bad at forcing turnovers and protecting leads. They have to force Ryan Tannehill into making mistakes in this game. He's known to throw up a few and the only way to make him do so is by pressuring him early and often. The Cowboys don't blitz much but a team that is 2-7 and desperate for a win needs to start. The Dolphins don't do anything particularly well on offense and this defense cannot make them look all-worldly this afternoon.
Dallas is dealing with some injuries in the secondary but that means that the back end has to step in and help out the corners. Byron Jones will get his first start at corner and he's been the one bright spot in a secondary that has struggled to cover and tackle. Now that Sean Lee is back after missing last week's game, he needs to bring this defense to another level. Rod Marinelli's defense is a simple scheme but these players have made it harder on themselves in the past seven weeks. The defensive line is at full strength and now they must start playing that way. Greg Hardy has been the one bright light along the defensive line and there is hope now that they can all get back on track with Romo's return. Part of the reason that this defense found success last season was the ability for the offense to score points and put away games with the run. If the offense is scoring points, the defense will get more opportunities. It can't be stressed enough how amazing it is to have number nine back. Now, the defense has to step up and finish the fight.
This is a huge game for a Cowboys' team with nor error left. Though CowboysNation isn't holding it's breath, the division can still be had. Tony Romo channeled Major League with his "win the whole *expletive* thing" mantra this week. The season isn't over for the Dallas Cowboys and the landscape can change in an instant. Can the Dallas Cowboys jump-start some momentum with a victory on the road in Miami today? It's a one game season, Cowboys.