Will Sunday be the Dallas Cowboys New York moment?
By Tyrone Starr
Every once in awhile, teams are given an opportunity to prepare for a Super moment in the regular season. Could Sunday be that for the 2019 Dallas Cowboys?
The day was December 30, 2007. The Dallas Cowboys had just completed the best regular season in franchise history. Even with a loss on the final Sunday, they had secured home-field advantage in the NFC with a 13-3 record.
Another NFC East team lost that day as well. Even with thirteen wins, the Cowboys did not have the best record in the NFL. On this day, the New York Giants gave the undefeated New England Patriots a stiff challenge, losing by just three to the best team in the league.
Today, the Dallas Cowboys face the New England Patriots in a rare matchup between the two teams. Dallas played that same undefeated Patriots team in 2007 but did not fare as well as New York did, however, losing 48-27 at home.
Each team today has two representatives that were a part of that 2007 matchup. For the New England Patriots, the historic head coach/quarterback duo of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are still dominating the league. Meanwhile, then offensive coordinator Jason Garrett now is the head man in Dallas with tight end Jason Witten the lone player still around.
Since 2007, Belichick and Brady have won two Super Bowls and lost three others. If Garrett or Witten have been to one, it’s been the same way you or I have been, as a spectator. One of those losses though was in 2007 to the New York Giants.
For the 2019 Dallas Cowboys, this game could be the springboard they use to finally get to the biggest game of the year. The Patriots offer a barometer as to just how good you really are as an opponent.
Currently, the Patriots are in their usual perch as the best team in the AFC. At 9-1, they are tied with San Francisco in having the best record in football. This year, it is their defense that is doing the heavy lifting.
New England’s defense has given up the least amount of total points and yards heading into Week 12. They own the best pass defense in the NFL and are eighth overall against the run. No other team has created more turnovers any only Baltimore has scored more touchdowns defensively than New England.
If Dallas is to have any success in this game, they will need to clean up their recent issues of turning the ball over. The Cowboys have not played a turnover-free game since the Jets contest. They have given up the ball five times in the last four games. This will be costly if it continues to be a thing today.
One thing that the Dallas Cowboys have going in their favor, however, is the talent level of the quarterbacks New England has seen so far in 2019. Only the New York Giants are amongst the top 20 teams in passing yards per game. Dallas leads the league. New England has four games already against three of the four worst passing teams in the NFL.
Five more of their games have come against teams ranked 21st through 27th. In fact, the only dangerous quarterback they have played all season was Lamar Jackson of the Ravens. Baltimore won that game 37-20.
The Cowboys certainly possess the most talent that New England has seen all season. We all know that Belichick will focus on taking one thing away from their opponents. Thankfully, Dallas can win a game in more ways than just one.
If New England focuses solely on limiting running back Ezekiel Elliott like recent opponents have tried to do, then quarterback Dak Prescott can carry the load just fine. Dak has four straight games with a quarterback rating of over 100 with ten touchdowns to just three interceptions in that span.
Two players that will have huge roles in any potential win today will be receivers Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb. It’s likely that Gallup will be one-on-one all game with cornerback Stephon Gilmore. If he can win a few of those head-to-head matchups or if Cobb can work the middle of the field heavily, it may force the Patriots to change their schemes.
Witten could also have a big role in this game. In fact, the Cowboys would be best served to play most of this game in 11 personnel. If New England wants to put seven or eight in the box to stop the run, the passing game will have to show up and show out. It’s hard to imagine New England letting Elliott control this game.
Ultimately, even if Dallas loses this game, if they are able to stay close and fight New England the entire game, it could lead to bigger things for them down the road. Whatever happens, Dallas needs to use this game as a test for what they are truly capable of doing in 2019.