Sunday night the Dallas Cowboys playoffs start a week earlier than the other teams in the NFL. With a scenario that still allows the Washington Redskins into the playoffs after a loss to Dallas the Cowboys are not in the same position as their NFC East counterpart. This Sunday night it’s win or go home for the Cowboys. If they lose it wouldn’t be surprising with what the team has had to overcome on the defensive injury front. What will be surprising is if the Cowboys can actually apply pressure on an RGIII led Redskins team that managed two 50+ yard touchdowns in their week 12 match-up. Both touchdowns were the end result of the play-action pass.
The Dallas Cowboys fell prey to the play-action of the Washington Redskins and that is where this game for the Dallas Cowboys will need to be different. 55% of Washington’s points came off of play-action during the first match-up and while RGIII should be less mobile, due to a knee injury, the Redskins will likely go with what they know and with what got them to this point. The Cowboys will need to apply pressure on an RGIII that will not be as apt to venture from the pocket much this time around and need to keep everything in front of them defensively. One positive note is that after the 28 point second quarter during the two teams first game earlier this season the Cowboys coaching staff managed to adjust and allow only 10 Redskins points in the second half.
The Cowboys scored 27 second half points to Washington’s 10 during week 12 and turned over the ball three times in the first three quarters. Two of those turnovers were interceptions by Cowboys QB Tony Romo. Since that game Tony Romo has thrown one interception is 18 quarters of play. Along with only one interception in the month of December the Cowboys QB has thrown 10 touchdowns, led his team to a 3-1 win-loss record and has a 115.1 NFL rating. Sunday night the temperature will be in the 30′s making for cold hands and dropped passes but expect Romo to continue his December play which will be paramount for Dallas to leave the nation’s capitol with a victory. Just as Tony Romo has been on fire in the month of December so has third year wide receiver Dez Bryant. The Cowboys “X-Factor” Bryant has been the recipient of 6 of Romo’s 10 december touchdown passes and has conceded only four dropped passes over that same period despite having a broken index finger. The Romo to Bryant connection should keep it going against a 30th ranked passing defense.
DeMarco Murray has fumbled the ball twice in the last two weeks. The turnovers by the offensive side of the ball have to be eliminated by the Dallas Cowboys in order to win. The Dallas Cowboys are 9-0 when the Cowboys rush DeMarco Murray 18 times or more. Both clock management will be key to the way Jason Garrett manages the game. After rushing only 14 times last week in a Christmas weekend loss to the New Orleans Saints it will be vital to get Murray and the Cowboys run game established early in the Sunday night football match-up.
Will the rookie, RGIII, out duel Romo and send Dallas home disappointed? We shall see but regardless this game should be an exciting one.