Bottom line? Win and continue the chase, lose and things get tougher.
Too much to leave to chance in my opinion.
Good news is here for the Cowboys though. Since DeMarco Murray's return from injury, the Cowboys have been substantially more efficient on offense.
Some more good news? The Saints are dreadful against the run. Currently, the Saints rank 31st among the league's rushing defenses.
Through studying the Saints defense, I've found why they've been susceptible against the run. Let me show you:
Here we see the Saints playing the Falcons. The Falcons are set up in a single back set, two tight ends and two receivers split wide. The Saints are playing four on the line and Curtis Lofton in the middle and Jonathan Vilma to the right side of the defensive formation.
As the play progresses, Matt Ryan hands the ball to Jacquizz Rodgers. The play is designed to go off tackle, but Jonathan Vilma stands in the gap to stop the play. Notice Curtis Lofton (No. 50) already committed to pursuit to the outside.
On this last view, we see the over-pursuit of the Saints, which are all circled in yellow. You'll see that Vilma has gone from perfect placement to engaged in block and actually gets knocked off balance here and misses the tackle. Rodgers sees this over-pursuit and uses his vision to see the lane developing because of it.
The result is a 15-yard gain by Rodgers.
Let's take a look at Murray.
In this play, the Cowboys are set up in single back formation similar to that of the Falcons. The Steelers are also lined up similarly in a 4-3 scheme. The Cowboys stacked left side gives away the direction of the run.
Here, Romo hands off the ball to Murray who goes power left. Immediately, he sees the Steelers crashing right.
Here, you see Murray come to a complete standstill, use his vision to quickly evaluate the right side, and move quickly enough to the hole to avoid the pursuing linebacker.
This is the result of Murray's vision. You see an exploited defense struggling to get back in defensive pursuit. This lane allows Murray a 15-yard gain.
These two plays that were analyzed are almost exactly the same.
Murray offers the Cowboys the greatest chance to win. The Saints are a dynamic offensive team, but a balanced gameplan will send them into a tailspin.
When Murray runs well, the offense performs better. That statement isn't hard to prove though, the Cowboys are 3-0 since Murray's return. Another notable fact is that Romo is substantially better with the presence of Murray in the offense. In the last three games, Romo has thrown for 912 yards, six touchdowns and one interception, all while maintaining a 68.7 percent completion percentage.
Not bad at all, Mr. Romo.
My point here is simple, the Cowboys are most successful when Murray is available. With the Saints inability to stop the rush and the Cowboys efficiency with Murray you have to like their ability to pull this one out.
Give me Cowboys 27, Saints 24.
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