The Cowboys host the 2-0 Atlanta Falcons on Sunday with an opportunity to make a statement. With the currently winless New Orleans Saints waiting in the wings the following Sunday night of week four - a Cowboys win against the Falcons could set them up to be in great position to give them the cushion they need to keep their head afloat before their play-makers return. A win on Sunday would be huge. Can they pull it off? Absolutely.
Here is what it's going to take to beat the Falcons...
Me and Julio down by the schoolyard
The defense has been a blessing so far in this early season. They have done an outstanding job in shutting down their opponents. Currently, the defense is number one against the run. The Falcons don't have much of a running attack and will be without half of their RB tandem as rookie, Tevin Coleman hurt his ribs last week. Devonta Freeman will carry the load himself. So look for the Falcons to get their play making WR more involved.
As determined as the Cowboys defense was to make sure Odell Beckham Jr. didn't beat them, it's going to be even more imperative to contain Julio Jones. The Falcons two-time Pro Bowl receiver is an absolute beast. He's strong. He's fast. And he runs his routes with precision. With Dez Bryant out with an injury, Julio is currently the best wide receiver in the league and he's off to a good start to the season. He is first in the league with 22 catches and second in yards with 276.
And the Falcons quarterback, Matt Ryan is playing well too as he leads the NFC with 661 yards passing. The Cowboys defensive line will need to keep pressure on the Falcons QB. Ryan has a tendency to throw passes at his receivers feet when he gets pressured, but at the same time - he can put the ball where it needs to be when he's got good protection. The Cowboys secondary won't have the luxury of wobbly misfire passes that they have seen over the first two weeks. They have yet to be burned in the passing game, but Ryan and Jones can change that in a hurry if the defense slips. The Cowboys will need to blanket number 11. Both Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne have played well so far and will need to continue to make plays in order to keep Julio in check.
Push it, push it real good
The Cowboys rushing statistics haven't looked very impressive over the last two weeks, but that doesn't mean the running game isn't doing its job. In both of the games so far, the offense has shown its dominance late in the game. In the final two drives of the Giants game, the Cowboys offensive line man-handled the defense, allowing Romo and company to move the ball down the field with ease. Against the Eagles, the offense again was moving the ball on the defense. A Gavin Escobar fumble stymied one drive, but the next on the next one, the Cowboys got into the end zone with a big completion from Terrance Williams. The Eagles defense looked worn down. The Cowboys have kept their opponents defense on the field a lot and all these three yard runs are taking its toll.
Dallas should get a little help in the running game as two key pieces are likely to return from injury. James Hanna (knee) and Ron Leary (groin) are a big part of the running game. Mackenzy Bernadeau struggled at left guard against the Eagles and rookie Geoff Swaim was ineffective in limited duty. Both these players would be a welcome addition to the Cowboys running attack.
Back that pass up
Brandon Weeden's performance last year against the Arizona Cardinals is still fresh in the minds of many Cowboys fans. For the time being, you can throw his strong second-half performance against the Eagles on top of it. Granted, that only consisted of seven passes, but it's a start. It would really be promising if he could follow that up with another quality showing.
Weeden has a propensity to only look to the right side of the field. Even his seven passes against the Eagles were all to the right. The success the Cowboys have had on offense have resulted from good reads from the quarterback and exploiting matchups. That means Weeden will need to see the whole field and use all of the weapons as necessary. There is no doubt that the Falcons defense will go after Weeden and force him to beat them. The big question will be - can he deliver? If Weeden struggles and the Cowboys offense falls flat, it's going to send many Cowboys fans in a state of panic.
But there is some reason for optimism. With this being Weeden's second season in Dallas, he has gotten a lot more comfortable in this offense. He's also benefited from getting the Wednesday reps from the extra rest days the team gives Romo. Weeden has gotten a lot more exposure to the Cowboys system and if last Sunday's game was any indication - he's getting better. If Weeden is able to step up and perform well during Romo's absence, it's going to mean great things for Dallas.
The Cowboys have pulled off two early season wins despite making a lot of mistakes along the way. Some fans feel they've gotten lucky, but is it really luck? Or is it the Cowboys players on the field are just outplaying their opponents. It's a simple formula, but it must be repeated for the Cowboys to keep this winning streak going.
|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.|