This will be one of the toughest games on the Cowboy’s schedule this season.
The Dallas offense has yet to consistently execute. The names-to-be-explosive unit is 31st in the NFL in scoring.
Whether one wants to blame the offensive line, Tony Romo or the receivers, it really doesn’t matter. A hair over 15 points a game will not get this team anywhere this season.
While the offense looks to put it together, the defense will need to continue to play at a high level for the team to leave Baltimore victorious.
The Raven offense presents numerous problems for any defense, and the Cowboys will have to win several key battles to slow Flacco and Co. down.
Here are five of these keys.
Rice is one of the most dangerous running backs in the NFL.
He can change the game from the backfield and through the passing game.
He has touched the ball 86 times in four games, 22 of which have been receptions. These touches have amassed 491 yards and three scores for the Raven offense.
Inside linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter are going to be responsible for him most of the day when he leaks out of the backfield. It will be a tall task, but the two young linebackers have the skill and athleticism to handle the duty.
Though he is a threat in the passing game, Rice does his best work from the backfield.
If the Dallas defense can take Rice out of the Ravens’ game plan, the Cowboys will be able to allow their pass-rushers to get after quarterback Joe Flacco.
The Dallas defense needs to get pads and helmets on Flacco early and often.
Since Ryan-brand defenses are predicated on getting after the quarterback, Rob Ryan needs to make sure the Dallas front seven wreaks havoc on the pocket and the clock in Joe Flacco’s head.
Of course, bringing Flacco down will be even better.
Getting Baltimore behind the chains will enable Dallas to send the numerous blitz packages they like to utilize.
Dallas, with the exception of Monday night, has been a very good defense in third-and-long situations.
Despite this, sacks are not the only measure of a team’s pass rush. If Dallas can lay the wood on Flacco early, they can put themselves in situations to create turnovers.
Newly-acquired cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne had their first not-so-great moments in Dallas last Monday.
Carr was continually beat by Brandon Marshall. Though he was not in man-to-man coverage for all of Marshall’s receptions, he was one-on-one with Marshall for a majority of the defensive snaps and did not play up to his $50-million price tag.
Devin Hester beat Claiborne on a double move for a touchdown, the first the LSU product has given up. Aside from that snap, Claiborne still played pretty well against Chicago.
Both will need to put those performances behind them because Dallas is going to need their corners against Baltimore’s receiving threats.
Baltimore’s Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith do damage in two completely different ways, but they are both productive receivers that Dallas needs to keep in check.
Carr and Claiborne will once again be asked to play these receivers one-on-one, and their ability to play man coverage and be physical at the line of scrimmage will be vital to Dallas’ success against the Baltimore pass attack.
The Cowboys' pass defense is currently the best in the NFL, as the team has only allowed 169.5 passing yards per contest. Keeping that average in tact will go a long to securing a Dallas victory.
Since safety Barry Church has been lost for the season and Gerald Sensabaugh is going through his own health issues, Rob Ryan has used corners Mike Jenkins and Brandon Carr at the safety position.
Both have played well at the position in recent weeks, but they have yet to make a game-altering play.
When the Cowboys have Jenkins, Carr, Claiborne, and Scandrick on the field at once, they can blitz as many other defenders as they want and trust that the backend is taken care of.
This also only helps the team’s quest to body Joe Flacco.
It seems obvious, I know.
The reason I bring this up is the Dallas offense. With the struggles they have faced putting points on the board, they will need as much time and as many opportunities as the defense can take for them.
The defense will need to be a catalyst for the offense finally gaining some confidence.
Extra possessions, especially short fields, should be enough for the Dallas offense to get rolling again.