Nov 3, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) throws a gaming winning touchdown pass in the fourth quarter of the game Minnesota Vikings at AT

The Big Easy Won’t Be Easy


There are two trains of thought leading up to Sunday night’s match-up between the Dallas Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints. You can be of the mindset that the Cowboys play up to the level of their competition; and if that’s correct they’ll play well against a very good Saints team playing on their home field. Or you can have the opinion that no matter what the Cowboys do on Sunday, it won’t work. New Orleans is too tough, it’s a hostile environment and the defense will get eaten alive by Saints quarterback Drew Brees and company. If you are of the latter mindset, then you probably don’t want to continue reading. You and I don’t see eye-to-eye.

Teams that are always in close games are ones that play to the level of their competition. If you are really good, you’ll wipe the floor with your opponent no matter who it is. The truth is, there aren’t very many teams like that. If you’re good, you’ll win the games you should win by a decent amount, but there will be teams you just don’t match up well with, and they’ll give you trouble no matter what the circumstance. Then there’s the current make-up of the Dallas Cowboys. They can lay it on an opponent every once in a while, but generally they play just about as well as their opponent is playing. If the other team is slinging the ball around and putting up big point totals, they match them and abandon their game plan. If the opponent is playing well on defense, but is having trouble scoring, they do the same. It’s one of the most frustrating things in the world. Case in point:

Oct 20, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrance Williams (83) scores a touchdown as Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Bradley Fletcher (24) defends during the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

When Dallas played at Philadelphia in Week 7 they could only muster 17 points. This was against an Eagles defense that was giving up points in handfuls. The Dallas defense showed up in a big way and held the Eagles offense to a measly three points.

In Week 5 Dallas played Denver, an offensive powerhouse. The final score was 51-48 in favor of Denver, and yet the offense had absolutely no problem scoring points. If that same Dallas team had showed up to play in Philadelphia two weeks later, they would have had the game in hand by the end of the first quarter. But they play to the level to their competition, and that doesn’t look to be changing any time soon.

So as we look forward to the prime time game against the Saints, you can only wonder what team is going to show up. Will it be the offensive powerhouse from Week 5? Or is it the sluggish offense, strong defense type from Week 7. If the pattern holds true, look for a high scoring affair that’ll come down to the wire. Both teams have loads of offensive weapons, but whoever’s defense can make one more key stop than the other’s will come out on top.

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  • SmartThinking

    Particularly since Dallas has had trouble running the football, the Cowboys coaches should pay attention to how Brees gets his running backs involved. He throws to them in the backfield after they’ve built up a head of steam. Running backs in the New Orleans offensive scheme are pass-catching runners. Bree’s keeps the defense honest by throwing to big, fast receivers in between the cornerbacks and safeties. Then, when the defense is stretched out, he comes back and hits his backs on the run with passes. Dallas should involve these types of plays into their offensive scheme and call that a running attack. Even though the Dallas backs can’t seem to get going from hand-offs, New Orleans has shown that they can still keep the defensive lines and linebackers playing close by tossing the ball to their backs and letting them run from an open field. It’s working there. Dallas is going to see a lot of it Sunday night. It may be the new modern way to implement an effective running game and gain more yardage with the backs, even though the Dallas offensive line can’t seem to keep the defensive linemen out of our backfield on passing downs.