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Dallas offense can throw more things at you

By Greg A. Bedard
Globe Staff / October 12, 2011

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The Patriots delivered a solid, all-around victory against the Jets Sunday, but a benchmark on New England’s defense was not given.

They’ll get it Sunday when the Cowboys come to Foxborough.

The Jets rank 28th in total offense with 297.4 yards per game.

The Cowboys are putting up 417.8 yards per game, good for fifth in the league.

“It won’t be night and day, but if the Cowboys are full throttle here with Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, I think it’s going to be hard to stop them,’’ said an AFC personnel executive who scouts both the Patriots and Cowboys. “They might stall them a few times, but I think the Cowboys are going to get their yards.’’

Bryant, the 24th pick in the 2010 draft, has been in and out of the lineup with various ailments. But after a bye week, the Cowboys are getting healthy, and the 6-foot-2-inch, 218-pound Bryant, who runs 4.5 in the 40-yard dash and can jump 38 inches, should be full go.

He’s also getting back his running mate, Austin, who missed the previous two games with a hamstring injury.

That’s to go along with the weapons quarterback Tony Romo already has at his disposal: Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten, running back Felix Jones, and athletic second tight end Martellus Bennett.

“One thing the Patriots do well is they try to take away what you’re really good at,’’ the executive said. “And that’s hard to do when you’re playing the Cowboys.

“Are you going to stop Witten? What about Dez Bryant and Miles Austin? Are you going to stop the perimeter receivers? What about Witten and Felix Jones out of the backfield? This is a tough matchup for the Patriots.’’

What the Patriots likely will try to do is continue their theme of limiting the big play - which bit them early in the season - and make the Cowboys go on lengthy, time-consuming drives.

Romo doesn’t want to dink and dunk down the field. He’s a tremendous athlete with a big arm, but he is prone to the dumb decision and forcing the ball into coverage. That’s what he did when the Cowboys blew 14- and 24-point leads in losses to the Jets and Lions.

“If the Patriots can force the Cowboys to have to go long, sustained drives and have to be perfect to score, that could be a semi-victory,’’ the executive said. “But the Cowboys have a lot of weapons and I don’t know how many guys [on the Patriots] that can really play one-on-one matchup coverage against all the weapons that they do have.

“You’re dealing with a risk/reward quarterback with Romo, going on long drives. He’s a chance taker, so he may give you a chance to get a turnover. I think that’s what the Patriots’ defense can hope for.’’

Romo has also gotten beaten up behind an interior line that should have trouble with the New England defensive tackles.

Tom Brady is in for another tough game, as Rob Ryan, the brother of Jets coach Rex Ryan, coordinates Dallas’s defense.

Last season, Rob Ryan was the Browns coordinator when they beat the Patriots, 34-14. Brady completed a season-low 52.8 percent of his passes for only 224 yards.

Those Browns had a week to prepare for the Patriots, just as the Cowboys do this year.

The Patriots will need to have a plan for stopping All-Pro outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who has five sacks in four games this season, and 85 in 100 career games.

“Rob Ryan has a lot more to work with in Dallas than Cleveland,’’ the executive said. “He does a very good job of keeping you guessing about where [Ware] is coming from. He’ll line up all over the place on any down and is very formidable. Jay Ratliff is very strong on the nose.’’

For the first time this season, the Cowboys should have their top three cornerbacks healthy and playing together: Mike Jenkins, Terence Newman, and Orlando Scandrick.

“The Patriots were able to run the ball against the Jets,’’ the executive said. “I don’t know if that will necessarily be the case against the Cowboys front. They have better athletic personnel, and their linebackers cover better than the Jets. They maybe don’t have the elite corner to line up one-on-one with Wes Welker, but I think it’s a solid group. If Terence Newman is back in the lineup, he’s a solid starter with Jenkins.

“This will be a very good matchup overall. I think the Cowboys can stay with them and make it a one-score game and trade scores with the Patriots. The rest is up to Romo.’’

Greg A. Bedard can be reached at gbedard@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @gregabedard.

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