Buccaneers vs Cowboys: 10 Keys to the Game for Dallas
Come Sunday, the Cowboys will have long focused their attention on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Their loss to the Seahawks will be far within the rear view, and hopefully, their wounds will have healed as well.
Before Dallas takes hold of the pigskin on Sunday, there are a few keys to victory that are within its grasp.
The Bucs allowed the Giants to score 25 points on them in the fourth quarter, which led to a New York victory after the Bucs led by 11 points.
I believe that's a pretty good starting point for the 'Boys.
Here are 10 keys to victory for Dallas on Sunday.
Unleash Tony Romo
Romo has had a pretty good start to the 2012 season, but Sunday could be a breakout contest for him.
Tampa Bay gives up 400 yards per game, and that is best for 31st in the league.
Now, I understand that we are just three weeks into the season and the Bucs could very well turn their pass defense around.
Until that day comes, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett should attack cornerback Aqib Talib just as Eli Manning did this past Sunday.
Romo passed for 249 yards and three touchdowns down in Tampa against the Bucs in 2011.
The Bucs season was pretty much done by that point, but the Cowboys beat them soundly and will look to repeat that success this season.
Blitzing Josh Freeman
Mr. Freeman is still growing as a quarterback. In Week 1 against the Panthers, he passed for 138 yards and one touchdown to lead the Bucs to a victory.
In the team's loss to the Giants, he had two scores and 243 passing yards. So his yardage has been a little inconsistent.
The issue with trying to bring Freeman down will be his size. He's 6'6" and 240 pounds, so it will be as if the linebackers blitzing him are trying to bring down one of their on.
On the plus side, the Cowboys will have linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer going after him.
With Dallas' shiny new set of cornerbacks, it may be able to press the Bucs receivers and force Freeman to hold the ball a little longer.
If so, Freeman is in for a long day.
Cowboys nation is still waiting for Bryant to have his breakout game, and so are the Cowboy coaches.
He has no touchdowns and only 102 receiving yards. While we slowly wait for Bryant to get going, the other Cowboy receivers are stuck in the same boat with him.
Before we get to the rest of the Cowboy crew, let's focus on Bryant.
He has the size, ability and skill to completely dominate. We have witnessed moments of greatness from Bryant, but he has to sustain it over long periods.
Sunday is his chance to show his worth and prove why the Cowboys are willing to take a chance on talent over character.
Stopping the Turnovers
Dallas had three turnovers on Sunday against the Seahawks.
Romo threw an interception, Felix Jones fumbled the game's opening kickoff, and Dallas had a punt blocked that was returned for a touchdown by Seattle.
Dallas had little focus and had its eyes fixed on an entirely different ballgame.
That cannot happen on Sunday when it heads home to play the Bucs. Turning off the turnovers starts with maintaining focus and remaining discipline, something Dallas has always struggled with.
If the Cowboys can keep the ball to themselves and not give it to the opposing team, their chances of victory go up. But we already knew that. Hopefully, Dallas will learn that lesson as well.
The Cowboys have yet to intercept a pass this season.
They couldn't force rookie Russell Wilson into a turnover, sans linebacker Bruce Carter dropping an interception close to the goal line.
But close isn't good enough. Against the Giants, Manning came away clean in the interception department.
Now it's time for Claiborne and Carr to show just why they were both worth the money and the hype. Picking the young Freeman off may start a trend for Dallas.
The first step is the first turnover. Dallas has to get one on Sunday.
A Healthy Jason Witten
Not sure how much pain Witten is dealing with these days. He injured his spleen early in the preseason and seemed to prematurely return to play in Week 1 against the Giants.
He had two catches and played the role of decoy against New York. It may have helped, as Dallas beat the Giants.
In Week 2 against Seattle, he had a case of the drops. Witten allowed three balls to slip through his fingers, one that may have resulted in a touchdown and at least two that would have kept drives alive.
Witten is expected to start on Sunday unless he has a setback with his injury. If not, look for Witten to have one of his best games of the season after he played so poorly against Seattle.
Taking Advantage of the Bucs Physical Nature
Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano is taking a lot of heat for his stunt on Sunday against the Giants during a kneel down.
He ordered his team to bum rush the Giants offensive line once the ball was snapped, even though the Giants had victory in their grasp.
Because Schiano is trying to make his team as tough as possible, it is prone to mistakes, as evidenced by his tactic against the Giants on Sunday.
Dallas was thrown around by a physical team on Sunday and seemed to back down when it was punched in the mouth.
The Cowboys have to do the punching on Sunday and use the Bucs' nature to their advantage. By doing so, they may be able to take Tampa out of their game plan and exploit weaknesses in their secondary and front line, as the Giants were able to do.
If not, look for a repeat performance from Dallas.
Forcing Tampa into 3rd-and-Long Situations
Sounds simple enough, doesn't it? You'll hear most defensive coaches say that they want to force 3rd-and-long situations, while many offensive coordinators will try to avoid that exact situation for their offense.
But the Cowboys defense may have lost a little confidence on Sunday, and by blitzing Freeman and pressing their receivers, it should go a long way toward reassuring the defense's confidence.
Fighting a Negative Perception
The Cowboys are now starting to face a lot of pressure for the 2012 season. Dallas ran into an invisible buzzsaw last Sunday, and the shock should wear off by Sunday.
Understanding that its still really early in the season, the Cowboys have only won a single playoff game since 1996.
That is why its important for Dallas to show up, show out and play strong on Sunday. If not, its playoff chances may sink lower than Jerry Jones' blood pressure if they lose.
Last season against Tampa, an injured DeMarco Murray didn't make the trip. So it was all up to Jones to carry the Cowboys rushing attack.
He did just that by rushing for 108 yards on 22 attempts.
Under different circumstances, Jones will not receive the same opportunity. He is not high on the Garrett's list of favorite players and may be completely nixed from Sunday's game plan.
For Jones, if he's able to get into the game, that means he takes fair advantage of every opportunity thrown his way. If he runs on third down, gets a swing pass or the team decides to use him on specials again, Jones has to show himself to be the guy the team drafted out of Arkansas.
If he can't, then this may be one of the last shows we see of him as a Cowboy.