It’s certainly not the news you would like to hear getting ready for a big divisional game but the Dallas Cowboys got it anyway, their best player, Sean Lee, the heart and soul of their team is out for the year. This is the NFL though and injuries happen everyday so the Cowboys have to move on.
The other big story for this game is how the New York Giants are still up in arms about Jerry Jones telling the fans to come watch the Cowboys “beat they (Giants) butts” in training camp. Pardon me if I bypass all that talk because it’s useless and it certainly didn’t help the Giants opening night now did it? Motivation is fine to talk about but in the end it comes down to the players on the field.
If the Cowboys are going to beat the Giants in the new Cowboys Stadium for the first time, they must do four things. It sounds like an odd number but if Dallas wants to win this game, these keys are essential and not much else will matter.
The first key is the obvious one, pressure Eli Manning. Manning has been too comfortable since week one and pressuring him can make a big difference. Manning does turn the ball over when he gets his happy feet and it’s up to DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer to cause those “takeovers.” This is a game where Rob Ryan needs to get creative with his blitzes. If they can get Manning moving off his spot, the Cowboys cornerbacks will have the opportunity to make a few interceptions and they have to catch those passes, unlike Terence Newman in last years game. Catch those balls for interceptions and the Cowboys have a shot to win this game, drop them and they could be in trouble.
Every other key for the Cowboys is on the offensive side of the ball because the Giants defense, besides their pass rush, is bad. They rely on the pass rush to stop the disaster behind the front four. If the Cowboys can protect Tony Romo, they have the opportunity to put up a lot of points on the Giants defense. So key number 1 on offense is to protect Tony Romo. Doug Free and Tyron Smith have gotten better each week so perhaps the offensive line is coming together. The Giants are going to get their sacks but if the Cowboys can keep the pressures down, Romo and the Cowboys offense has a shot.
One way to keep the pressure off Tony Romo is to run the ball effectively, which is key number 2 for the offense. The Cowboys offensive line has been getting a good push and running the ball better the past few weeks but that coincided with the return of Phil Costa. Now that he’s out, we’ll see if the run game takes a hit?
The Cowboys are also without DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones is banged up so the Cowboys are going to need Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar in this game. Both are good backs who run well, but they lack experience in pass protection so I expect Felix Jones to handle most passing situations. No one knows how much playing time Jones can take since he’s also hurt but he’ll get the first chance at carving up the Giants run defense that ranks 23rd in the league.
The 3rd key to the Cowboys offense is to be aggressive! They played soft and conservative last week in Carolina and they need to attack more against New York. Get the ball downfield to your play makers, even if they continue to drop passes, stay aggressive. Part of being aggressive is using the play action fake to get Tony Romo extra time to throw downfield. According to Pro Football Focus, Romo is the NFL’s leader in completion percentage off of the play fake so the Cowboys need to call it more. Romo should be able to pick apart the Giants secondary with his receivers and Jason Witten has the opportunity to have a big game too.
I have also said this in the past few weeks and it makes even more sense this week against an aggressive Giants pass rush, the Cowboys need to put Romo on the move more. Bootlegs, play fakes and roll outs will work against New York, just like they did for Robert Griffin last week. Heck, they worked for Romo in week 1 against the Giants too. Romo doesn’t have the same athleticism as RGIII does but he’s extremely accurate outside the pocket and Jason Garrett needs to take advantage of that ability.
I’m fine with Garrett’s split of runs and throws last week but the Cowboys need more down the field throws in this game. They need to be aggressive against the Giants both offensively and defensively to win this game.
Remember that word, aggressive. If they Cowboys don’t attack the New York Giants on both sides of the ball they will lose, it’s as simple as that. If they bring the fight to the Giants, they have a chance to win, even without their best player.
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