Four years ago, the Dallas Cowboys’ Week 6 match-up was a “Super Bowl Preview.” The 5-0 New England Patriots stormed into Texas Stadium to take on the 5-0 Dallas Cowboys and man-handled them on the way to a trip to the Super Bowl. The Patriots were 4 minutes away from perfection. The Cowboys disappointed in the post-season, yet again.
Former Cowboys coach Bill Parcells loved to say, “You are what your record says you are.” The 2011 version of the Dallas Cowboys are a mediocre 2-2 football team. If a certain right-handed player had played better in just two more quarters, the Cowboys COULD be 4-0. If he had been less heroic in Weeks 2 and 3, the Cowboys could be 0-4. After all, the San Francisco 49ers are now 4-1, the Washington Redskins lead the NFC East, the New York Jets are on a 3-game losing streak and the Detroit Lions are 5-0 and look every bit as good as the other 5-0 team in their division. Who knows what those wins and loses mean anymore?
But you are what your record says you are. Much has been made of the much-maligned Tony Romo in the past two weeks by fans and media alike. However, no matter whether you appreciate him or not, he is what the Cowboys have to work with and that is not going to change any time soon. In fact, with the exception of the Indianapolis Colts, I do not believe there is a single team that relies on their quarterback nearly as much as the Cowboys rely on Romo. He has proven in several crucial spots that he has what it takes to get the job done. He has also proven that he often times forgets that one mistake by him means significantly more than one mistake by any other player on the team.
This weekend, the Dallas Cowboys will be relying on Tony Romo to be mistake free. If there is any player in the league that can make a team pay for their mistakes, it is the quarterback of the Cowboys’ opponent on Sunday. New England’s Tom Brady has personified the very attributes that Cowboys fans expect of their quarterback on a weekly basis. He makes very few mistakes and the ones he makes are mostly not at crucial junctures in the game. Brady has thrown for 1,874 yards (most in the NFL through 5 games) and 14 touchdowns with a passer rating of 109.5 (2nd in the NFL). He is completing an astonishing 68% of his passes. Brady also defends his turf as well as anyone in football. In the past two seasons and two games into this season, the Patriots are 18-0 at home in the regular season.
However, there are exceptions to every rule. Three weeks ago, the New England Patriots defense struggled mightily at the Buffalo Bills and Tom Brady had a poor outing with 4 interceptions. The Patriots suffered their first loss of the season and have since rebounded with wins against Oakland and division rival New York. What all of this means is that usually the Patriots are good, but they are not invincible. The Cowboys have the weapons and are now healthy enough with the return of Miles Austin and Orlando Scandrick to the line-up, to beat New England. The question is not how they will but rather can they execute their game plan and minimize mistakes?
The game plan for beating the Patriots is simple; but as with all things, it is easier said than done. The New England defense is porous and below average. They have given up an average of 23.8 points per game and 326.6 yards per game through the air. They were easily exploited for 34 points and 369 yards passing in their loss to Buffalo, by a below average quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Cowboys should be able to score on the Patriots if they do not stop themselves. The hard part will be stopping Tom Brady from devouring their defense for a 400 yard passing day with 4 touchdowns, something to which he is becoming accustomed. Again, the game plan will be simple. DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer and Jay Ratliff will be tasked to making Tom Brady look up into the Foxborough sky rather than into the end zone. If the pass rushers can get to Tom Brady, this game will be the Cowboys’ game to lose. The question is, will they? And will Tony Romo give Tom Brady more chances that he would not otherwise receive? It might sound cliché, but if the Cowboys can keep Brady on his back and Tony Romo can keep possession of the ball, they will win. However, just ask the Patriots last 18 home, regular season opponents if that is easier said than done. The plan was the same against Brady four years ago and the Patriots destroyed the Cowboys by 21 points IN Texas.
Now, four years later, the Cowboys Week 6 match-up is not being billed as a “Super Bowl Preview.” But if the Dallas Cowboys want to have a successful season, Tony Romo will have to out play the living legend, Tom Brady. Can he do it? I think we all know he is capable. Will he?
We should find out Sunday at 3:15 Cowboy Time, what our Dallas Cowboys are made of.