The Cowboys have historically, with few exceptions, played up or down to the level of competition. Just last season they played in twelve games that were decided by a touchdown or less, winning seven of them. In other words, in their eight wins during the 2012 season, only one of them was by a margin more than seven points and that was the fifteen point victory in their first game against the Philadelphia Eagles. In their eight losses last season, five of them were by seven points or less.
So, what’s my point? It’s that the Cowboys need to dominate their opponents and pile up more points early in the game and negate any opportunity the opposing team has to come back and win with a touchdown or field goal at the end of the game. If they could have built, and held, a big enough lead in just a couple of those five losses mentioned above they would have been the clear winner of the NFC East. Great plan, but how can they accomplish it you ask?
Employ more hurry-up offense. With plans for Tony Romo to be more involved in game plan development during the week, we can expect to see a quicker pace on offense. The hurry-up was used last year to get them back into games after falling far behind. It can, and should, be used in 2013 to build a lead. Once a substantial lead has been built, expect them to slow the game down. At the least, the plays called from the booth will be relayed to Romo earlier with Callahan calling the plays. This will allow the Cowboys to snap the ball earlier, preventing the defense from jumping the count for the predictable snap of the ball as the clocks winds to zero.
The players on this offense are as talented as any in the league, if not more talented than most. The Cowboys will have to do a better job of taking advantage of this plethora of talent by spreading the ball around a lot more. This will allow them to be relentless in their implementation of the hurry-up offense. This is, of course, all based on improved line play, which is expected with the addition of Travis Frederick at center. One thing for sure, as we saw last year, a faster pace on offense can cover up inadequacies with the line. The Cowboys were able to put up a lot of points using the hurry-up offense, even though everyone in the building knew they were going to pass.
Any successful plan for improving offensive performance must include a higher percentage of touchdowns versus field goals. One way they can do that is just keep throwing fifty yards plus touchdown passes to Dez Bryant. Seriously though, it has been very difficult for this team to score once they get inside the twenty yard line. Expect this to improve in 2013 with more big weapons that can score in the end zone. Tight ends Gavin Escobar and Dante Rosario, as well as wide receiver Terrance Williams, are all recently acquired big targets that can help in the end zone. When close to the goal line, imagine a four tight end offensive set that looks like a run, but instead floods the end zone with big and hard to defend targets.
Play defense for a change. Yeah, I know, injuries devastated this team on the defensive side of the ball last year. But even with the starters healthy, Rob Ryan’s defense was so complex that it led to an unacceptable amount of mental errors, leading to blown coverage far too often. Ryan’s propensity for creating multiple sub-packages for his defense was a good thing from the standpoint of developing young players and taking advantage of their strengths. Where the rubber meets the road though is the effectiveness of such ploys. In reality, too many player changes in between plays leads to too many or too few men on the field, which happened way too often last year.
With the 3-4, Tampa-2 defense the team will be using in 2013, there will be far fewer personnel changes on the field and the base defensive alignment and personnel will be relied upon much more extensively. This is a defense that puts a premium on getting to the quarterback with four defensive lineman in the base lineup, allowing them to be much better prepared to stop the pass when expecting the run, or stopping the run when expecting the pass. If similar defensive schemes employed by the Seattle Seahawks and the Chicago Bears in 2012 show what we can expect, it’s that there will be many more turnovers caused. Success in this aspect of the game will also help to allow the team to run up the score.