Dallas Cowboys vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Sketching out a Game Plan for Dallas
It isn't often the Dallas Cowboys are getting less attention than they deserve, but that's close to being the case right now. The Cowboys are very much alive in the playoff race, but the focus in the NFC is instead on Hall of Fame rookie Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins as well as the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
Maybe a convincing victory over a difficult opponent on the road will finally get people talking about the Cowboys again, for better or for worse. Here are some suggestions as to how Dallas can make that happen by taking care of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Run It Early and Often
The Bengals lead the NFL with 39 sacks. The Cowboys have played only one team in the top 10 in that category, and they were destroyed by the Bears in that game. The offensive line is a mess, and Cincinnati's awesome pass rush will be coming at the less-than-100-percent Tyron Smith and the terrible Doug Free from all angles.
They would have been screwed under these circumstances a few weeks ago, but DeMarco Murray's return to health makes this possible. The Bengals have given up a mediocre 4.4 yards per carry this season, so Murray can be the star while also taking heat off of Tony Romo. That'll give Romo chances to take shots as the game progresses.
Use All of Your Tight Ends
Of course, that doesn't mean the 'Boys should abandon the idea of giving those tackles as much support as possible. The beautiful thing about Jason Witten, John Phillips and James Hanna is that all three tight ends are capable pass-catchers, so if you utilize all three with lots of mixed two-tight end sets early, you'll have the Bengals guessing on defense throughout the game.
Who should the Cowboys use more of Sunday?
Against a defense like this, Romo simply has to take what's there. Hall's been great in slot coverage, so move Miles Austin outside more often, forget Kevin Ogletree and hope that Austin and Bryant can make plays. But first, focus on the box with Murray and those tight ends.
Hold Back on the Blitz
Eight of Andy Dalton's 13 interceptions have come in non-pressure situations, and Dalton's been sacked 27 times despite having a very good line. That indicates that the second-year quarterback is still prone to his own mistakes, as we saw with those two picks in San Diego last week.
With Sean Lee and Bruce Carter both hurt, they'll need their best run defender, Anthony Spencer, taking care of business as a natural linebacker against a running game that has been very good the last few weeks.
Don't Get Caught Up on A.J. Green
Jenkins will need safety help whenever Brandon Tate comes into the game and pushes Hawkins inside to create that advantageous matchup. And beyond that, because they can't afford to use more than five defensive backs, they have to hope that guys like Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and Danny McCray can hold it down against Green, Jermaine Gresham and whomever else the Bengals throw at them.
Trust your corners, because you really don't have an alternative.
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