How time flies! We’ve gone thru an entire 16 game schedule, over 17 weeks, to get where I thought they’d be during preseason. Admittedly, when the team was 3-5, I didn’t see a snowballs chance in …. of getting to the playoffs. The team for some reason this season didn’t let us or at least me, settle into the season. Being under .500 early on, will do that to you, but then came “the streak”, that righted the ship and put them on a path to the playoffs. Now its time to get real! Keep the momentum and see where it takes them!
After these 17 weeks, we do know what this years team is all about. This game falls on the broad shoulders of the defense. These two teams are nearly identical in their style of play and how they win games. Tough defenses, good running games and QB’s who can use their legs to keep drives alive. In looking at Russell Wilson & Dak, I see an almost identical model when I see the two of them. Neither is the most accurate QB, both battle hard and both extend drives with their legs. On that last point, Wilson is more shifty, while Dak is more powerful. This is a question of whose defense stops who? Which defensive front seven controls or limits the other teams running game the best?
Yeah, these two teams played in week three with Seattle coming out the victor, 24-13. The Seahawks started the season with two defeats, the first in Denver. Playing us was a must game for them and they responded. Their running game was efficient in consistently chewing up five and six yards per attempt. No game breakers, just moving the chains, then Wilson finished off two drives thru the air. They were able to keep the Dallas defense off balance the entire game. Couldn’t stop the running game on second and third downs to force them to pass. How many running first downs did they get on 3rd and less than 5 yards? Enough to make me sick! Also, never easy to play in their house with their insane fans. Clearly, the Cowboys defense from week three is not the same unit as we saw over the last half season. Its here where I can see a different ball game and an even better outcome.
LVE, led the team in tackles that day with 11, but as I recall, both he and Jaylon were making their tackles well off the line of scrimmage, no real stops to speak of. To win this game we need to see the defense that has been out there the 2nd half of the season. They must limit their scoring in the first half to give Dak and the offense the chance to set the tone of the game and put some points on the board. Remember this, field goals are the easiest path to defeat, punching in a few TD’s wins this game. I don’t see this as a high scoring game. Until last week, the Cowboys defense had not allowed a team to score 30 or more points. Go back a few years and that was a weekly norm, but I digress. Doesn’t mean that the 2nd half doesn’t become a shootout but I’m seeing this as a tough physical game where the first team to scoring two touchdowns gets the win.
As hard as I’m trying, our offense still concerns me. Granted we have the best running back in this game, but they will be looking to control him. Zeke punched out 127 yards in the first match up on 16 carries, but it didn’t lead to enough points to be a major factor in the outcome. Their defense was counting on forcing Dallas to execute on every play or else. Dak had a rough day with two turnovers. He’s steadily improved his play as the season progressed, but getting points remains an issue until probably next season.
What’s it going to take to win this game? A defense that wins on first down and gets them into third and long situations. They ate our lunch in getting into manageable down and distance. Can’t have that in this one! Means staying gap responsible and shielding the LB’s so they can make the tackle closer to the line. The defensive lineman must stay in their lanes to keep Wilson inside the tackle box. He gets outside and its major trouble. The men up front can’t take the bait and open a lane for him to scoot for first downs. Just can’t allow them to keep drives alive!
Offensively, keep feeding Zeke, never hurts, so don’t stop now. The problem is once inside the red zone, they struggle more than we can believe. Settling for FG’s will make this game really tough. Maher seems to struggle from inside 40, yet bangs them home from over 50. Go figure! One of the problems inside the ten is they feel they can impose their will in the running game. The opposition makes a stop on first down and now they’re in a pickle, because they didn’t get the 3-5 yards they were expecting. Passing down there is never easy when they know its coming, space is so limited. Dak for some reason struggles with the end zone, back shoulder throw. Shocks me, as I saw him and Dez in camp two years ago be successful with that every time they tried it. I’d take a few shots downfield with Amari or Gallup, stretch their defense and open the running lanes for Zeke. Get Austin involved downfield will keep them off balance. Use all the tools, leave nothing in the locker room.
What will be the outcome? My biggest concern is putting up early points in the first half and controlling time of possession. The fans need to give this team the home field advantage! Be loud when their offense is on the field and pipe down when Dak’s calling out the plays. Execution will be everything here. Our Cowboys are coming into this game with the confidence of how they closed out the last half of the season. They had one of those runs where the team rises to the top of the crowded field and thats what this team did over the final stretch. At the same time the early frontrunners, Rams & Saints, got nicked up and beaten down the stretch and weren’t the world beaters they started out as. There’s a lot to be jacked up about.
Remember this, its been my mantra for over fifty years, “No D, No Rings!”. We have the defense that can shut down any team, on any day. We need four outstanding efforts to get that ring. Today is the first game, its Prime Time, its Showtime! Watch our D and see how they’re playing and you’ll know the chances to win this game! Leave it all out there on the field, for there is no tomorrow …….