Dallas Cowboys vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Five Keys to Victory
Key situations and matchups to watch for that will help determine the Week 15 showdown between the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Dallas Cowboys, and their fans, are hungry and anxious to leave the Week 14 loss to the New York Giants in the past.
That defeat, the second loss of the season and second loss to the Giants, was a tough one to swallow. The Dallas offense that has been so exciting and dominant for most of the season has really fallen off in recent weeks.
The Cowboys have only converted two third down attempts in the last two games, failing to pick up a first down on 22 of their last 24 third downs.
Dallas also turned the ball over three times last week. It’s hard to win football games when you don’t take care of the football.
Speaking of third downs and turnovers, a red-hot Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad is coming to Dallas-Fort Worth this week; the Bucs are riding a five game winning streak and are far from the ideal team for the Cowboys to try and have a bounce back game against.
What concerns me about this game? Well, Tampa Bay is currently ranked second in the NFL when it comes to allowing third down conversions. Going up against a stingy third down defensive team doesn’t bode well for a team that is struggling on epic proportions to convert third downs on offense.
Also, the Bucs have been consistently getting key turnovers in the past five weeks that have helped them seal the deal on winning football games.
With that being said, here are some of the keys to victory for the Dallas Cowboys in this matchup.
- Execute on first and second down on offense. 14 of the past 24 third downs that the Dallas offense has faced have been third and seven or longer. Staying balanced on first and second down and properly executing the plays that are called will help to make third downs a much more manageable distance, hence making it easier for them to convert.
- Contain wide receiver Mike Evans. Evans gets targeted more than receiver in the league and he is the apple of Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston‘s eye. Keeping the tall and physical wide receiver in check should be the number one priority for the Dallas defense. This is yet another matchup where cornerback Morris Claiborne will be sorely missed.
- Establish dominance in the run game. The Tampa Bay defense is athletic, they can really fly and they play physical at the point of attack. That being said, they are undersized. The Cowboys offensive line is at its best when facing front sevens that like to move laterally. It fits right into the game plan of the Dallas zone blocking scheme where they can get you moving sideways to open up running lanes. Also, the Dallas line not being concerned with getting overpowered by large defensive tackles will allow offensive linemen to get to the second level to block speedy linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander. This could be the day where Ezekiel Elliott flirts with a 200 yard rushing game.
- Win the turnover battle. This is a key to victory that really goes without saying. Normally if you take care of the ball and force a turnover or two on defense, you are in great position to win football games. Tampa Bay has been opportune in forcing turnovers and quarterback Dak Prescott and the offense need to make sure that ball security is the number one priority.
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- Continue the trend of getting improved pressure on the quarterback. Being without defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence will not help the Cowboys chances of getting a consistent pass rush. However, Dallas has registered three sacks in each of the past two games. Benson Mayowa is starting to heat up at the right time and the defensive tackles have been playing at a very high level as well. This needs to continue through this game and into the playoffs.