As we enter Week Three of the NFL season, the Dallas Cowboys will play their home opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Both teams enter Cowboys Stadium with their tails between their legs following Week Two disasters. Both teams started the season with victories in Week One, suffered crushing defeats in Week Two and look for revenge in Week Three.
Tampa Bay beat the Carolina Panthers in Week One behind their rookie running back Doug Martin. Then in Week Two they turned three Eli Manning interceptions into a 24 – 13 halftime lead over the New York Giants. They built that lead up to 14 points, only to watch Manning throw for 250 yards and three touchdowns in the Fourth Quarter alone, as Tampa Bay lost 41 – 34.
The Dallas Cowboys won the season opener against the Giants with 300 yards and three touchdown passes from Tony Romo along with 20 carries and 131 yards from DeMarco Murray. Week Two was a different story as the Cowboys fumbled the opening kickoff and had a punt blocked, before you knew it they were in a 10 – 0 hole. The Cowboys fought back with a touchdown to make the score respectable at halftime. That was it for respectable football for the Cowboys on Sunday afternoon. Rookie quarterback for Seattle, Russell Wilson, orchestrated a 90 yard scoring drive in the Third Quarter and running back Marshawn Lynch ran wild en route to 122 yards and a score of his own as the Cowboys lost 27 – 7.
The difference for the Cowboys in the first two games is quite clear on both sides of the ball. It all starts and ends with the running game. Game One (a victory) saw the Cowboys with 20 rushing attempts and 131 rushing yards from their back. In contrast, Game Two (a loss) only 12 carries for 44 yards from Murray. It does not take a statistician to look at those numbers and see the problem and the solution for the Dallas offense. The argument can be made that Game One the Cowboys played from ahead, while Game Two they played from behind. However, Game Two was a scene all to familiar to Cowboys fans as head coach Jason Garrett abandoned the run in favor of throwing almost every play. The defense in Week One allowed 82 yards rushing to the Giants. In Week Two, they surrendered 182 rushing yards to the Seahawks. Thus showing an indication of success for the Cowboys, is their ability to run the ball and their ability to stop opposing teams from running.
The key to the game this week could not be any clearer for the Cowboys. Tampa Bay has rushed their rookie running back, Martin, 20 plus times in each game this season. In Game One, he had 95 yards in the win and in Game Two just 66 yards in a loss. Both teams know the running game will be important and the team that does it more and effective will walk out of Cowboys Stadium with the “W”.
The amusement park that is the NFL season is full of attractions from start to finish. There is no bigger “tent” than the “Billion Dollar Play Pen” in Arlington called Cowboys Stadium. There is also no greater roller coaster in the NFL than the Dallas Cowboys. When they are good they are at the highest of peaks, but when they are bad they crash down at break-neck speeds to the lowest of the low. For the Cowboys to ascend to the top of the track, they must run the ball without abandonment and stop the other team from running down their throat. The Cowboys and Bucs will both rely on the run this Sunday, and the box score at the end of the game will tell you all you need to know…even if you cannot watch the game.