Dallas will not be able to beat Tom Brady and themselves if they want to avoid another first-round exit.
Don’t beat themselves
This was a signature of Tom Brady’s old team, the New England Patriots. Make the other team do the work to win the game, don’t help them with game-changing plays that set the team back while propelling the opponent forward.
Penalties have normally hurt Dallas; it was the offseason focus of head coach Mike McCarthy and for the first part of the year it was still a problem. Over the five previous games, before they faced the Washington Commanders, the Cowboys were only called for three penalties per contest. In the first 11 games though, they averaged 7.5 penalties a game.
Drive-killing penalties, or a call that takes away a turnover, could turn this game on its head.
Then there are the turnovers themselves. Quarterback Dak Prescott is tied for the league lead in turnovers even though he has played less games than the man he is tied with, Davis Mills. Prescott has thrown an interception in seven straight games and about half of them were just bad reads by the QB. Just last week, the Pick-6 to Kendall Fuller was simply a bad play by Prescott. He has talked about it for a month and a half, but those plays must stop.
Cowboys Identity Crisis? ‘We Know Who We Are!’ Says Ezekiel Elliott- Adam Schultz, Sports Illustrated
Zeke is confident ahead of their playoff matchup.
With the Cowboys’ season on the line and coming off a horrible outing against the Washington Commanders, Ezekiel Elliott had a blunt message for those questioning exactly what Dallas needs to do offensively after only scoring six points last Sunday.
“We know our identity as a team,” Elliott said. “We know what we need to do as an offense to get going.”
That identity might just start with the ”Dine and Dash” duo of Elliott and Tony Pollard. Held to a season-low of just 64 rushing yards against the Commanders, which included just 10 yards for Elliott and 19 for Pollard, there is room for improvement.
But after such a poor showing, how does the Dallas offense get the running game going again?
“Getting back to the basics, locking in on our fundamentals and our execution,’’ Zeke said. “And just making sure we’re doing everything we need to do between now and Monday night to put our best foot forward.”
Those fundamentals have paved the way for what on-balance was a good rushing attack through 17 games for the Cowboys. A whopping 13 times Dallas has surpassed 100 rushing yards in a game that includes a stretch of 11 straight.
Here is a quick summary of what went down in Dallas during this pivotal week.
After being named to the Second-Team All-Pro by the Associated Press on Friday, CeeDee Lamb shared the emotions he felt when he got the news, but also understood that there are more pressing things ahead with the playoffs now here. [Lamb on Playoff Mindset: ‘Everything is Motivation’]
The Cowboys’ recent playoff history, coupled with Dak Prescott’s recent struggles for the latter part of the regular season has created quite a bit of buzz this week. But, the noise is nothing new for Prescott and his team as they look for a chance to respond. [Dak Thankful For An ‘Opportunity to Respond’]
The boys from the Player’s Lounge get you set with all the last minute notes and thoughts before Monday night, along with their picks and who they think could be the MVP of the matchup. [Player’s Lounge: Wild Card Predictions]
Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy is confident not only with the health of his team, with three key players coming back for this game, but the week of practice has him telling the media “We’re ready to go” as the team gets ready to leave for Tampa. [Cowboys Mostly Healthy vs. TB: ‘We’re Ready to Go’]
It always starts with Tom Brady when assessing the talent of the Bucs. But it doesn’t end there. Bucky Brooks analyzes the “Blue Chip” players on their roster, which includes arguably on the best linebacker duos in the NFL. [Blue Chips: Bucs’ Talent Doesn’t End With Brady]
Would it be responsible for Fassel to look elsewhere at the return position this weekend?
We hate to call for anyone’s job, but Turpin’s been playing with fire and the Cowboys cannot afford muffed fair catches, a fumble on a return — pretty much any turnover following a kickoff/punt from the opposing team — in the playoffs.
Could you imagine if Sunday’s blunder happened with Dallas trailing early against the Bucs? You’d expect Brady to capitalize in the form of at least a field goal, if not a touchdown. Brady is renowned for pouncing on opponent’s mistakes. It’s one of his many qualities that make him the greatest to ever do it.
With that in mind, Dallas can’t take any risks Monday night. As much as Turpin is capable of breaking a long return, he’s just as capable of committing a costly error. Look back to Week 14 against the Texans. The same thing happened.
Turpin muffed a punt after calling for a fair catch and Houston got the ball near the red zone. That’s two muffs in a five-week span.
What is your bold prediction for Monday night?
1. Cowboys will sack Tom Brady at least four times
Brady may be 45 years old but the formula for stopping him hasn’t changed much since his athletic prime with the Patriots. If Dallas is going to blunt Brady’s passing effectiveness they need to force him to move around in the pocket.
The Cowboys have the defensive personnel to do more than just rush Brady. They can use their speed to get to him before he gets the ball out of his hands. Dallas is going to bring heat against Brady early and often. The end result will be a ton of pressures and at least four sacks.
Micah Parsons is the most athletic of Dallas’ pass-rushing group so he will get a lot of attention from Tampa’s protection schemes. That should open up opportunities for DeMarcus Lawrence and even Anthony Barr to work one-on-one against overmatched offensive linemen. That’s a recipe for disaster if the Buccaneers want to push the ball down the field.
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