How the Dallas Cowboys can start a new streak
By Tyrone Starr
The Dallas Cowboys are running out of chances…
Two losses in overtime without ever getting the ball. A one point loss thanks to an offense not capable of making enough plays to protect the defense. Another loss where the special teams gave the game away.
The Dallas Cowboys have failed for six consecutive weeks to put together a complete performance and now this team is on the brink of throwing away an entire season.
Fifty days ago, when this team was 2-0 and facing the next seven games knowing they would be without quarterback Tony Romo, I’m sure almost everyone looked at the schedule and looked at today’s game as a likely win.
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Well, it’s time for this team to deliver on that prognostication. If they don’t, then the Cowboys will almost certainly be completely out of chances.
So, how can the Cowboys save this season and get a much-needed win in the books?
It’s all going to start with defense.
Too many times this season, the defensive line has allowed teams the ability to break runs on the perimeter. The loss against the Falcons as well as the Eagles were almost exclusively lost because the ends failed to set the edges.
This week, Dallas faces a running back who is in the top five this year in rushing yards. They do so with a banged up linebacker corps. Containing Buccaneers running back Doug Martin will be key if the Cowboys plan to get a win. This responsibility will largely fall on guys like Jeremy Mincey and DeMarcus Lawrence. Focus on how well they are able to keep Martin in between the tackles.
Another focus of this defense has got to be causing turnovers.
Since the linebacking unit will be missing some key pieces and playing hurt, look for the Cowboys to employ more dime packages and/or experimenting with the possibility of playing safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox in a linebacker position.
This could help generate some interceptions which may be there given that they will be facing a rookie quarterback. While Jameis Winston has been much better of late at protecting the football, he still has thrown seven picks this year. Any semblance of a pass rush from the line could force some bad decisions and with extra pass defenders on the field, Dallas may be able to get an elusive interception.
Offensively, the Cowboys have a few advantages that may help the defense play with a bit more swagger.
Tampa Bay is one of the five worst teams when it comes to scoring defense, getting stops on third down and getting stops when opponents are in the red zone. This has to be a welcome sight for a team that has been as offensively anemic as the Cowboys have been without Romo at the helm.
One positive over the last few weeks has been the steady performances they have received from running back Darren McFadden. Couple that with a breakout game last week from receiver Cole Beasley and the evolving return to form from receiver Dez Bryant and the Cowboys all of a sudden have a few weapons to continue the Buccaneers struggles on third down and in the red zone.
Look for tight end Jason Witten to get more involved as well. In two of the last three weeks, Tampa Bay has allowed over 200 yards and three touchdowns to Jordan Reed of Washington and Jacob Tamme of Atlanta. With Bryant and Beasley sure to get the bulk of the attention, Witten could have a dominant day against a defense that struggles to contain tight ends.
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Ultimately, the Cowboys do not for all of these things to occur in order to win the game today. They do, however, need to play a complete game for the sake of their psyche. Winning is a great elixir. There has been a lot of off the field drama of late that has paired with the issues on the field creating a mushroom cloud of frustration and anger.
It’s time for the Cowboys to take control of the run away train.
The prediction: Cowboys 24, Buccaneers 17.