Nine games in the books and while the Cowboys are leading their division and have a winning record, they have yet to beat a team with a winning record in 2013. Last week Dallas played down to their competition and almost lost to a team with one victory to show for their efforts at home. While the win certainly had no aesthetic value, it was a win which they absolutely needed.
Week 10 gives the Cowboys another opportunity to beat a “good” team as Dallas travels to New Orleans to face the Saints. With this game being the last before the bye week and on Sunday Night Football, it also gives Dallas a chance to change the course of their season. An inspired effort and an upset win could go a long way towards helping this team reach their long-term goal of a playoff berth. The Saints will definitely present a difficult challenge however given that they are almost unbeatable at home. Here is this week’s edition of the Four Quarters that will show the ways that Dallas can win this game and head into the bye two games above .500 for the first time since December of 2012.
The Defense Rests…
Before the season started, I wrote a piece on the change of defensive coordinators from Rob Ryan to Monte Kiffin. If you like, you can find it here: http://thelandryhat.com/2013/02/15/kiffin-vs-ryan-whos-best-for-the-cowboys/ I stood on the side of approving the switch and I still do regardless of how the results look at the moment. I applaud Ryan’s efforts to improve the Saints defense. Last year, they were atrocious finishing next to last or last in both passing and rushing yards while giving up the second most points. This year, Ryan has them ninth in total yards against, fifth against the pass and fifth in points per game allowed. As we all know, the improvements Dallas had hoped for are not as obvious. The Cowboys have fallen off in each of these categories from where they were last year which was not exactly stellar. So am I just a homer? Have I lost my mind? Maybe… but maybe numbers don’t tell you everything.
The big difference between Ryan’s defense this year and Kiffin’s is injuries. Currently, the Saints have lost 11 total games missed by three different starters. Of those eleven, six have been missed by a guy who they can replace with a first round draft choice. The Cowboys have had one starter (Anthony Spencer) miss nine games this year by himself. Throw in DeMarcus Ware’s three, Morris Claiborne and J.J. Wilcox’s two and a couple of others with one and you see Dallas has had to fill in many different holes. The other major contributor to the failures of Kiffin’s defense has been the number of plays ran against it. The Dallas defense has seen 630 plays ran against it so far in nine games. That’s 70 plays per game. By comparison, the Saints defense has only seen 487 plays in eight games or 61 per game.
If Dallas is going to win this game, they cannot give Drew Brees and his offense 70+ shots and must get off the field or else they will be in serious danger of getting ran out of the Superdome with a 5-5 record going into the bye week.