The Dallas Cowboys return home to take on the Denver Broncos in a matchup with the hottest team in the NFL on Sunday afternoon. Denver (4-0) has been averaging 44.7 points per game and allowing 23 so they’ve essentially been doubling up opponents. Peyton Manning has been setting the world on fire with 16 touchdowns, zero interceptions, spreading the ball around to a slew of talented receivers.
So Dallas (2-2) has their work cut out for themselves on both sides of the ball this week. But this is a scenario they’ve faced before, Tony Romo led an upset of the 9-0 Indianapolis Colts led by Manning in 2006, Romo did the same thing a few years later against a 13-0 Saints team in New Orleans. So is the task very difficult? Yes but not impossible
The game will be broadcast by CBS at 4:25 EST with Jim Nance and Phil Simms on the play-by-play.
Series History: The Cowboys have played the Broncos 11 times with Denver holding a 6-5 edge overall including four times in a row. The last time the teams met was back in 2009 with the Broncos taking a 17-10 win in Denver. The games are split evenly 2-2 held in Dallas. One game was played in neutral territory with the Cowboys defeating the Broncos in the Super Bowl 27-10.
Here is a look at some of the key matchups from a Cowboys’ perspective for Sunday’s contest:
Slowing Down Denver, Using The Run:The easiest way for the Cowboys to slow down Denver’s offense is to keep them off the field and hold the ball for long time-consuming drives.
Right now Denver’s run defense is rated #1 in the NFL allowing only 74 yards per game. But are the Broncos the best run defense in the league? No, that number is partly the result of teams getting lit up on defense and abandoning the run and throwing the ball.
The key is a balanced approach of runs and passes, spreading the defense out and running the ball with DeMarco Murray right at them. The Denver defense is too speedy for long developing stretch plays. Their fast but undersized overall and teams must go right at them.
In 2012, the New England Patriots worked it to perfection, rushing for 251 yards while rolling up over 450 yards of offense and beating Denver at home. Scoring drives were long and balanced in terms of runs and passes. Dallas should re-watch that film.
Don’t Be Conservative: The key to a balanced attack is to run the ball effectively but not to turtle up and try to be a strict running team. That is a recipe for disaster, but if the running game can get untracked early, it will open up the passing game through play action and Dallas will have to take shots down the field.
One area to do so is against 2nd year safety Duke Ihenacho, the tall, physical and active safety is very aggressive in run support and Romo will have to sell the run and take a shot over the top down the seam. Ihenacho has been excellent so far this season but has only played in six games in his NFL career, so it may be time for some trickery.
This is a place where Romo can get Jason Witten heavily involved in the passing game and put some needed points on the board.
Containing Wes Welker:Welker is off to a fast start in 2013 with 26 receptions and 6 touchdowns and has quickly become a favorite target of Manning. Facing Welker will probably be Orlando Scandrick and he’ll have his work cut out for him on Sunday.
Welker is quick but not fast and the key is to jam him at the line of scrimmage and delay his release and timing with Manning. Scandrick is tailor made for this and should line up with him all over the field. However, if that is successful watch for the Broncos and Manning to put him in motion and use some crossing routes underneath to get him room to maneuver.
Get Pressure on Manning with Four:If the Cowboys are to be successful in bringing the heat on Manning, it will have to be with four pass rushers. Manning is excellent at recognizing the blitz and torching opponents who bring it one time too many.
The key matchup to watch will be DE DeMarcus Ware against Broncos LT Chris Clark. Clark has been outstanding this season filling in for the injured Ryan Clady thus far. He’s facing one of the better pass rushers in Ware that he’ll face, but he will have some help in terms of a running back staying in if he needs it.
But it will have to be a collective effort by the Dallas front four not just Ware if they are to keep Manning at bay. No small task against the Denver offensive line.
Secondary Will Have to Step Up: Dallas’ secondary was torched for over 400 yards last week by the Chargers and Philip Rivers. They’ll need a much better collective effort if they are to beat the Broncos on Sunday.
The Broncos core of WRs, Welker, Eric Decker and DeMaryius Thomas has combined for 999 yards receiving and 11 TDs in 2013 thus far. Each of them is capable of taking over a game at any time, so the Dallas defense will have to be a collective effort of getting an effective pass rush and the secondary playing well.
The Cowboys as a team have 4 interceptions and 19 passes defensed so far, they’ll need to force a turnover or two in this one to slow down the high scoring Denver offense.
Prediction: The Broncos are firing on all cylinders right now and their offense is a very tough one to slow down. Peyton Manning has everyone involved and the wide receivers are routinely torching opponents up and down the field.
The Cowboys have been up and down but have the personnel to make this one interesting with an offense that could give the Denver defense some trouble. But will they be patient enough to remain balanced is the question.
Tony Romo will keep it close but it won’t be enough as the Broncos run their record to 5-0 with a 38-31 win.
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