It’s not so much that 3-3 record the Cowboys bring into the contest. It’s not even the fact that it’s a rematch of the season-opening upset pulled off by Dallas close to two months ago. Even the Giants' undefeated record at Cowboys Stadium takes a backseat to what I am thinking.
This week’s news concerning inside linebacker Sean Lee is probably the biggest story line regarding this contest. This could be a real game-changer, and not in a good way.
From what I saw of inside linebacker Dan Conner last weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Cowboys have a pretty solid backup for Lee. Still not sure if Conner has Lee’s instincts and play-making ability, but he will provide run support and this has to happen.
Still, you add in the expected absence of running back DeMarco Murray on the other side of the ball and you can see that the Cowboys are going to be a little shorthanded for this one.
As far as I’m concerned, the Dallas defense has rescued the Cowboys from at least two bad offensive performances. It’s also had to endure a couple of horrid outings both home and away. Make no mistake about how important Lee is to this defense.
So looking forward, it sure seems like the need to score points is going to be way up there on the list of game-day priorities.
After six games, the Cowboys have not shown that they can consistently drive the ball into the end zone. Gaining yards has never been a problem under offensive coordinator Garrett, but over the last couple of seasons, gaining short yards and red-zone efficiency have not been hooks to hang a hat on.
I recall former Dallas defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt telling former offensive coordinator Norv Turner that he needed more than 20 points to win the 1992 NFC championship game. Dallas beat San Francisco, 30-20 – and Wannstedt was exactly right.
In other words, score more than 20 points and you’ll win more games than you lose. Score closer to 30 points per game and you’re winning 12 games with the worst defenses.
Well, under the stewardship of Garrett, who obviously doubles as both head coach and play-caller, the Cowboys are averaging just under 19 points per game and have yet to score 30 points a single time.
If Dallas is to really push for a playoff spot then Sunday’s game should tell us something about how likely that really is.
The last two games have been a bit different than the first four games of the season. Garrett is showing a greater commitment to the running game and the results have been pretty good. Romo has only gone down once and the Cowboys have been in both games until the very end.
But at some point you have to get over the hump. Instead of winning some, losing some mainly because of poor discipline and lack of execution, you have to start winning more than just some.
Dallas will not survive the next four games on the schedule if they continue to make unbelievable mistakes and fail to reach the end zone.
Time will tell as far as the mistakes go but Garrett has got to find a way to capitalize on 18-play offensive drives that yield only three points!
The Cowboys have to string together wins if they expect to even be in position to qualify for a postseason birth in 2012. The best way for this to happen is to start scoring points and allowing this defense, especially without Lee the rest of the way, to pin its ears back and go for the passer.
When pass rushers can be pass rushers, instead of run defenders, then you start to really see the value of guys like cornerback Brandon Carr and rookie counterpart Morris Claiborne. These guys will sit on more short routes and underneath stuff once they have that multiple score lead in the second half.
And the Cowboys have the skill position players to accomplish these dynamics every week, yet we seldom ever see them.
But it’s time for Garrett to show his worth as an offense play-caller and start taking advantage of what the defense gives you. I’m sure Garrett understand the concept but it doesn’t seem as though he often remembers it.
I’ll say this right now: If the Cowboys score more than 30 points against an over-rated Giants defense then Dallas will win this game going away.
If they score more than 20, there’s still an 80% that the Cowboys handle Eli Manning and the defending champs one more time.
It’s time for Garrett to win a big game, period.
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