Heading into today’s game against the Cowboys, there are a lot of things going against the Patriots.
The Cowboys have a ton of offensive talent to throw at a leaky Patriots defense. Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, like last year with Cleveland, had another bye week to prepare the kitchen sink for Tom Brady. The Patriots are coming off a big rivalry win. And they have a bye next week.
Bill Belichick and his coaches had to work overtime this week to be in a position for a win today against the Cowboys.
What will they need to accomplish to improve to 5-1 heading into the bye week? Here are the five keys:
- Make Dallas QB Tony Romo work: The Patriots need to make Romo go on 10-, 12-play drives in order to give him plenty of opportunities to make a mistake(s). That means no big plays, and good tackling.
- Jam them up: Patriots cornerbacks have had trouble jamming outside receivers. They can’t let Dez Bryant and Miles Austin run free off the line of scrimmage, they’re too big and fast down the field.
- Account for Ware: Dallas OLB DeMarcus Ware is one of the best players in the game. Shut him down and make the Cowboys find pass rush from somebody else. This is another tough matchup for the Patriots’ Mike protection scheme – probably tougher than the Jets because of Dallas’ defensive talent.
- Screen it up: The Cowboys are a very fast and aggressive defense. The Patriots should be able to use screens, to WRs, RBs and TEs, to offset some of that.
- Make Romo uncomfortable – but don’t let him roam: The Patriots will want to push the middle of the pocket (hello Albert Haynesworth) to make Romo get happy feet and bad decisions, but they have to be careful of letting him run. Romo can make a lot of plays with his feet. It will be important for Andre Carter, Shaun Ellis and Mark Anderson to keep contain.
It actually skipped my mind last week (when I picked the Jets to win outright) that Brady had a 29-game home winning streak in the regular season. Playoff losses tend to make you forget about things like that.
So for this game we have two things in the “I’ll start believing otherwise when you show me” category: Brady losing at home, and Romo not killing his team in a big spot:
Patriots 30, Cowboys 27.