A lot of what you’re hearing this week is about how the Cowboys haven’t been victorious against the Broncos since 1995. The last time they beat the Broncos on the road was 1992. So, Mile High fans are ready for a grind of a game against a powerful NFL offense.
The Giants were on the receiving end of a 19-3 loss handed to them by their divisional rival last week. The Cowboys only scored one touchdown but they moved the ball well against that $200 million defense. They were able to rack up nearly 400-yards on the Giants, which was obviously much better than their last two outings.
Interestingly, Dallas did out gain the Giants in 2016 588 to 576 yards of offense. That’s what makes good defense hard to beat. They don’t need to keep pace offensively if they can cause a holding call here or another mistake there. These types of defenses play well enough to keep you behind the chains. The Cowboys open up their season against three of the top-notch NFL defenses. You could argue that the Giants, Broncos, and Cardinals defenses are the best aspect of their respective teams.
This week’s opponent, the Denver Broncos, boast one of the best defenses in the league over the past few seasons. Led by Von Miller and the “No Fly Zone” (Aqib Talib, Chris Harris, Bradley Roby, and Justin Simmons), Denver relentlessly attacks opposing offenses. They’ll be missing starting defensive end Jared Crick but they’ll get after it in front of their home crowd. Adam Gotsis will play in his place where he was fourth on the team in tackles in week one.
They only allowed 18.6 points per game last year, making them fourth in points allowed. Only two teams got to 30 points on their defense, the Raiders and Chiefs (twice). Maybe Jason Garrett needs to get on the phone with Andy Reid before Sunday. The Broncos defense has shown that they can win games in spite of their offense. Just look at last week, they lost the turnover battle and gave up four sacks but still got the ‘W’.
Though the Broncos have a streak going against the Cowboys, Dak Prescott has one of his own against top passing defenses:
.@dak vs top pass defenses =— NFL GameDay (@NFLGameDay) September 15, 2017
Will he continue the trend vs Denver? pic.twitter.com/kYrQn5BKue
Dak Prescott understands how important it is to take care of the football, that’s perhaps his best attribute. Those three games of top passing defenses last year were against the Bears (7th), Ravens (9th), and Vikings (3rd). Seeing as they beat Chicago and Baltimore handily, let’s look at the Vikings as our point of reference for Denver.
Despite being sacked three times, Prescott completed 12 of 18 passes, 139 passing yards, one touchdown, and a 108.3 passer rating in that game. Dallas had only 264 yards of offense (140 in rushing) and converted 1 of 9 third downs (11%). They also lost two of four fumbles, lost the penalty battle, ran 20-less plays, lost time of possession and still won 17-15. Those low numbers for Dak didn’t tell the story of how sensational he actually was in leading them to victory.
He had to make calculated decisions and they paid off for him. He may not have passed it all that much but he completed 66.7% of those passes. Ezekiel Elliott led the team with 86 yards in rushing but Prescott added 37 rushing yards including two critical first downs. Dak has a pretty remarkable grasp of situational football. He demonstrated it again against the Giants in week one. It might be a little ugly but Prescott is more than capable of doing what it takes to beat juggernaut defenses. This offense stays committed to their identity,
That’s what it will take to beat the Broncos’, who were the top-rated pass defense in 2016. In the opener, Denver only allowed 185 passing yards to the Chargers. The silver lining for the Cowboys is that the Broncos’ defense allowed a 99.6 passer rating for Philip Rivers, they also gave up 21 points.
Though Denver’s run defense only allowed 64 rushing yards for the Chargers, Dallas boasts a totally different animal in the run game. The Broncos look improved but the Chargers were 26th in run production last season, Denver was also the fifth-worst rushing defense in 2016. That’s a pretty strong hint that the Cowboys need to run the football. Facing rushing attacks like Dallas’ with Ezekiel Elliott has a way of humbling a defense.
By facing the Giants, Broncos, and Cardinals to open up the season, the Cowboys’ offense will be battle-tested. Jason Garrett talks about being your best and going through adversity in each game. It almost feels like this team has entered a defensive gauntlet. They passed their first test but the next two weeks will surely pose more challenges. How the Cowboys’ perform over this time will reveal if they are ready to take that proverbial next step.
Finding ways to beat great defenses will not only show a multifaceted offense but it will prove their staying power among the elite teams in the NFL. Might as well sit back and enjoy it, the first month of this season will be grind-it-out football at it’s best.