6. Can the Cowboys stop Gronkowski in the Redzone?
The Patriots TE has only 22 catches this year, but 5 of them are touchdowns. If the Cowboys are going to hold the Pats to FG’s instead of TD’s, they will have to stop Gronkowski in the redzone. The Gronk is 6’6” and 265 lbs, so he presents a serious match-up problem in that he is too good of a receiver to cover with a LB, but potentially too big and strong to cover with a DB. Given the priority that defenses give to Welker inside the 20, it is no surprise that Gronkowski catches a lot of TD’s.
I will be watching to see how Ryan tries to account for both Welker and Gronk. I will also be watching to see if Sensabaugh, given his renowned leaping ability, seeks out the Gronk near the goal line.
7. What new wrinkles will we see in the defense this week?
Ryan has had an extra week to prepare for this game because of the bye, so I expect to see a considerable amount of formations, packages, and blitzes that we haven’t seen yet this year.
I will be watching to see if Ryan continues the trend of using delayed blitzes. As strange as they sometimes look, and as counter-intuitive as the idea may seem, Ryan has had some success utilizing the delayed blitz.
I will also be watching to see if Ryan continues his iconoclastic habit of blitzing two defenders in the same gap. I am not positive, but I think that it was Ryan, or his brother, that first dared to break this very old and devoutly followed defensive rule on anything but a rare occasion.
Conventional wisdom says that the only way to stop the Patriots offense is to knock Brady down enough times to get him out of his comfort zone. If he has time to progress through all of his reads, he will eventually find someone open and get them the ball.
I will be watching to see if they can get enough pressure on Brady in the early going to prevent him from getting into a rhythm.