Cowboys vs. Panthers: 10 Keys to the Game for Dallas
What's next for the Cowboys of Dallas? This past Sunday, the Cowboys dominated the Baltimore Ravens and still came up short. They amassed over 227 rushing yards against one of the most feared defenses around (well, at least the Ravens used to be that) and still could not pull out a victory.
How will Dallas respond on Sunday in Carolina?
The Cowboys pack it up and travel to the northern Carolina state to take on Cam Newton and the Panthers.
If the Cowboys had nothing going for them after the Baltimore game, they have history against the Panthers. Dallas has won the last eight regular season games against the Panthers, and that trend should continue on Sunday.
In fact, the last time the Panthers bested Dallas was way back in 2004 during a playoff game.
So in order for the Cowboys to keep up the good streak versus the Panthers, here are ten keys to victory for Dallas on Sunday.
Run, Dallas, Run
As I mentioned in the open, the Cowboys crushed the Ravens in the run game as they ate up 227 yards on the ground. That was their best haul all season.
Dallas will probably be without starting running back DeMarco Murray as he is nursing a foot injury.
It will be hard to duplicate that type of ground success two weeks in a row; however, the Panthers aren’t necessarily good ground agents.
Carolina gives up 127 rushing yards per game, good enough for 23rd best in the league. Felix Jones is starting on Sunday and should get his fair share of chances to eat the grass up in Carolina.
Look for Dallas to run a more balanced attack led by Felix Jones and Phillip Tanner.
Continue to Feed Dez Bryant
I was a little hard on the young fella last week when I called him a loser in my weekly “Winners and Losers” column.
Dez dropped a big pass on Sunday against the Ravens. If he would have held onto the ball, the Cowboys would have tied Baltimore, and the game would have probably gone into overtime.
Not only that, Bryant thought that he was interfered with and complained to the referees. He complained over and over and over again. Looking back at the replay of that play, Bryant should have made the catch, and he simply did not.
But no matter what happened last week, Bryant deserves to continue to be fed. He is a beast of a receiver and showed that against Baltimore. He had 13 catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns.
We should see a pretty strong performance from Dez on Sunday.
Spy Cam Newton
Yes, I know, this is really simple and almost petty. Spy on Cam Newton? Really? That is your key to success for the Cowboys.
Well, yes, it is a key to success for Dallas.
During the Panthers bye week, Mr. Newton went to visit his father for a midseason pep talk of sorts. Newton has not played well this season, and his dad was there to put him back to where he belongs.
So if Newton is feeling a new energy and wants to show off his superman ways against the Cowboys, what do you think Dallas should do stop him? Spy him.
Oh, yeah, they can also force him to pass the ball. Last week against the Seahawks, Newton was 12-of-29, collecting 141 passing yards.
It was his worst output of the season, and the Cowboys should learn from it. Then again, they did play the Seahawks, and when Dallas traveled to Seattle, they were sort of made into dog food by Seattle's physical defense.
Spy him and make him pass, Dallas.
Keep the Defense Simple
One thing about the Cowboys defense that I really like is that it is very complex. Last season, Rob Ryan was known for not having two of the same alignments in his playbook. The Cowboys could throw multiple looks at an offense and keep them guessing.
It worked at times last year, but overall, it just caused a lot of confusion, more so for the Cowboys.
In 2012, the defense has been pretty steady for Dallas. They have the best secondary in the league stat-wise, only allowing 181 passing yards per game. It seems as if the additions of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne have worked.
For Ryan, he must remember to keep things simple against Carolina. Newton is still a young quarterback, so trying to confuse him with different looks may work. It may also help if Dallas can just send a simple blitz his way to make him think on his feet.
Again, the Cowboys secondary has been able to hold its own so far this season, so through five weeks, there should be enough trust to believe in the secondary's ability to stop the pass.
For Ryan, simplicity may be the key to unlock victory.
The turnovers for Romo have to stop at some point, don't they? Over the past few weeks, I've noticed the growing pains in the Cowboys offense. It seems that they are always around, but the Cowboys passing game is coming along.
Romo had a key turnover against the Ravens in the second quarter that swung the score—and the momentum—over to Baltimore.
Romo has to start playing better, meaning he has to take better care of the ball.
The turnovers have to cease if the Cowboys want to start making headway toward the playoffs. If Romo gets pressure in his face, he either eats the sack or tries to make something happen.
Oftentimes this year, something has happened, and that has been an interception.
Ware knows how difficult it will be to bring down the 6’5” Newton. It's almost as if a linebacker is trying to tackle another linebacker.
Ware also knows how to get to the quarterback. For him, it really is that simple. He has six sacks on the year, good enough for fourth in the league this season.
He is such a nice guy off the field and a monster on it. Remember when Lord Farquaad was going to pick off the gingerbread man’s buttons in “Shrek” and the gingerbread man said “You’re a monster!” and spat in his face?
Don’t you sort of get the feeling that opposing quarterbacks want to do that to Ware sometimes?
He’ll have to be that monster on Sunday and bother and pester Newton if the Cowboys have any chance at victory.
The Offensive Line
I saw some progress in the line on Sunday. They opened enough holes for the Cowboys running backs to run through for over 200 yards on the ground.
That's considered progress, isn't it? Romo was still running around, but things will improve.
If the Cowboys offensive line can have a repeat performance on Sunday, they should win the ballgame. Carolina isn't as good as Baltimore, and if Dallas is able to dominate again, there should be a "W" on the board.
Ever since Garrett became head coach, it seems as if the Cowboys have had time-management issues on the field.
On Sunday in Baltimore, Dallas allowed 20 seconds to tick off the clock before calling a timeout.
That cannot and should not happen on Sunday—or again—if Dallas has any chance of being successful.
It always comes back to penalties, doesn't it?
Dallas had their fair share on Sunday after only amassing a few against the Bears. If the Cowboys fall back on their old ways, then Sunday's game will be up in the air.
Mental errors and mistakes have dogged the Cowboys over the years, and they have yet to figure out a way to correct them.
Keep the flags to a minimum on Sunday, and the chances of victory rise.
The injury bug has lived at Valley Ranch this year. Morris Claiborne and DeMarco Murray were injured last week, and there have been many more before him.
Center Phil Costa, linebacker Anthony Spencer, nose tackle Jay Ratliff and wide receiver Miles Austin have all seen the inside of an injury report.
I know that it's tough to predict injuries, but Dallas needs to avoid them on Sunday. Losing another key piece to this "Super Bowl" run may derail any glimmer of potential championship hopes.