The biggest story will continue to revolve around the Cowboys ability to keep the ship afloat as they play without the services of their Pro Bowl quarterback and receiver. Sadly, for the next several weeks, Dallas will be without more than just Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. Greg Hardy, Rolando McClain and Randy Gregory are still either nursing ankles or serving suspensions. Yet, the Cowboys sit here at 2-0, with a chance to remain undefeated if they can overcome the task of beating the soaring Falcons. Let's look at a solid gameplan that may favor the Cowboys.
5. Healthy Dose Of Dunbar
The Falcons have allowed a league-high 24 receptions and 199 yards to running backs in the first two weeks. This is obviously a place to look at exploiting when the offense takes the field. All of the backs for the Cowboys have been solid in the passing game but this is especially a positive for Lance Dunbar. He absolutely killed the Giants on that last drive that set-up a game winner for Tony Romo. When your star quarterback is down, it's good to know that the opposing defense is bad at stopping check-downs. Brandon Weeden should feel way more comfortable knowing that if the play breaks down, he's got a go-to gadget-man like Dunbar. This could also be a huge game for Dunbar to make his presence known on the field. The best part of it all is the fact that Dunbar is a mismatch nightmare when he's given the ball in space and Scott Linehan has made it a point to get him involved early in the season. Dunbar is currently second in the league for running back receptions with 11 and third in receiving yards with 115.
4. Stop The Run
The Cowboys are the league's number one rushing defense after two weeks in football and are only allowing a putrid 53 yards per game. The biggest reason has got to be the play of the linebackers - most importantly, Sean Lee. At times against the super-hyped Eagles stable of backs, Sean Lee looked as though he was single-handedly out to prove a point that no runner would get past him. If the Cowboys can keep Devonta Freeman from having a big night, it will force the Falcons to become one dimensional. Now, this is exactly what the Falcons like to do is pass but it helps if they are forced to as opposed to having options.
3. Run The Football
Dallas has yet to establish themselves as a running team and there is no better time for it to happen than against this Falcons team. Currently, the Falcons defense ranks ninth in stopping the run which means that the majority of the pressure is on the five road graders up-front. Neither Joseph Randle or Darren McFadden have show much on the ground and that needs to change in a big way. If the Cowboys can be successful in their rushing attack then it will take a load of pressure off Brandon Weeden in the passing game. Maybe Dallas should get Christine Michael involved as his running-style can wear down a defense. This team is still trying to find their offensive identity but it would truly help jump-start their offense if one of these backs could takeover. With Romo sidelined until November, this team may have to win low-scoring affairs. Running the rock really helps you stay in control of the pace of the game. The Cowboys are killing it in time of possession right now as is but a healthy running game will only help.
2. Hold Up, Weeden Boyz!
In order for the Cowboys to pull one out against Atlanta, they need to keep it simple for Weeden. Part of the issues in last season's Arizona game was admittedly the offensive strategy by Linehan. Weeden was throwing up the 'X' to Dez, but he was superbly covered by Patrick Peterson. For this game, Atlanta's Desmond Trufant is no Peterson, but he's done a nice job for himself. Terrance Williams will have some trouble with Trufant but the underneath routes could be there for the taking. Williams has been pretty good at taking slants to the house as was on display at "The Linc" on Sunday afternoon. These receivers need to rally around their underdog quarterback and make it easy on him. Run precise routes and just get open. Weeden has a cannon for an arm but he needs these guys to beat their one-on-ones. That also goes for the offensive line, they need to beat the defenders and keep Weeden's pocket clean. If these things can happen, Weeden should have plenty of time to orchestrate a functional and formidable offensive attack.
1. Put Matty On "Ice"
Matt Ryan has only been sacked three times and is tied with Tony Romo in that category. This defensive line needs to take advantage of a Atlanta Falcons' offensive line that is middle of the pack thus far. Like any quarterback, if they are having to move the ball too quickly, mistake are made. Matt Ryan is not perfect and can be baited into these types of games where nothing goes right. Rod Marinelli needs to get creative with his stunts and pass rush combinations in hopes to get the quarterback on the turf. Dallas can simply not afford to allow Ryan to become comfortable in the pocket. That's when he will unleash the likes of Julio Jones and Roddy White. They key will forcing these mistakes with the heat turned up. The Cowboys are going to need to keep notching turnovers for their defense. These Cowboy corners have played well thus far but the defensive line must bring their A-game come Sunday and take the pressure off the secondary. Putting "Matty on the ice" should be priority number one, two and three.