Can you believe there was a time when the Dallas Cowboys were 7-0 versus the New England Patriots all-time? It took their franchise almost 20 years to finally beat the Cowboys. It wasn’t until 1999 when a team that featured Drew Bledsoe at quarterback came away with a 13-6 win over Troy Aikman’s Cowboys.
Strangely, once they got that first win, they never lost again. Over the next 20 years, it’s been all New England. Cowboys fans are hoping that streak ends this week. It’s going to take four quarters of good football to get the ‘W’ this week, but which players do you think comes through with some big plays? The front-page writers weigh in as we make our picks for X-Factor player of the game.
Tom Ryle: DeMarcus Lawrence
And he kinds subs for the trio of him, Robert Quinn, and Michael Bennett. They all have shown that they can get pressure fast, which is what they have to do against a Tom Brady that is getting the ball out in like 2.5 seconds. If they can get to him, or at least near him, quickly, then he can get to feeling uncomfortable back there. Keep him a bit off balance, and the Patriots offense may be contained. They also have to be good against the run, but fortunately they have shown they can do that, too.
Michael Strawn: Ezekiel Elliott
Yeah, he’s usually not a candidate as an “X-factor” but he and the running game in general have been missing in general the last couple weeks. Add the fact they’re going up against the best defense in the league and it seems like expecting anything significant from Zeke is unrealistic. Well, if Zeke doesn’t have a big game I doubt the Cowboys win. You can’t be one-dimensional against the Patriots; Belichick will eventually strangle that approach. I’m looking for the aerial game to open up some opportunities for Elliott and I expect him to take advantage.
The last time the Cowboys beat the Patriots at Foxboro, Herschel Walker scampered off for a 60-yard touchdown in overtime. Could Elliott break off a big that helps put the game away for the Cowboys?
David Howman: Tony Pollard
The Patriots have had some trouble against talented running backs, and longtime Belichick disciple Pepper Johnson once said the Pats coach hates facing two great running backs. Zeke is trouble enough, but if Dallas can get Pollard involved like they did last week, they can expose some holes in this defense and continue their offensive dominance.
Matt Holleran: Sean Lee
With Leighton Vander Esch sidelined for the foreseeable future, Lee will see much more time on the field. Against a Patriots’ offense that has struggled, Dallas can not afford to miss tackles. New England and Tom Brady love to get the ball out quick, so the Cowboys will be tested tackling-wise this Sunday. If Lee can play like he did against the Giants in Vander Esch’s absence, it can really give the Dallas’ defense a boost.
The last time the Cowboys played in Foxboro, this happened...
Michael Sisemore: Randall Cobb
Bill Belichick is the master of taking away what you do best and right now, the Cowboys have put up gaudy passing numbers. New England will likely try and take the big plays away, meaning doubling Amari Cooper and possibly bracketing Michael Gallup. That means the Cowboys will need to use the short and intermediate passing to win this game. Randall Cobb is starting to come on strong after two back-to-back 100+ yard performances and the Cowboys are going to need him to make big plays in this game to find success against the Patriots’ vaunted defense.
Danny Phantom: Jeff Heath
This game is going to come down the Cowboys ability to make plays in the open field. With no real vertical threat in the passing game and a third-worst yards per carry in the rushing game, look for the Patriots to feast on short to intermediate plays as Tom Brady spreads the ball around. This puts the onus on the Cowboys back seven to make tackles. With Anthony Brown’s season over, the cornerback crew is down down a man, which comes at a bad time considering how much the team will need to go with extra defensive backs against the Patriots. This means the Cowboys safeties will need to come up big to keep New England from getting chunk plays.
Who do you think steps up and makes a big play in this game?