AT&T Stadium. Playoffs. Dallas Cowboys, home team? It may have seen improbable after the way this Defense played last year and the over all, average play over the past four or five years, but today the Cowboys will be hosting former Highland Park quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions.
The past seventeen weeks have confirmed that not only do the Cowboys belong with the top teams in the league but they have a formidable offense that can go toe to toe with anyone. The Cowboys rank highly in points, yards and touchdowns and are number two in rushing yards.
The punishing rush offense, combined with the dynamic passing game has given Dallas a shot in every game that Tony Romo has played in. This offense is well-balanced and one of the most talented in the NFL with six Pro Bowlers, all who made the AP All- Pro teams as well.
The question comes down to this. Can the Defense make enough plays and get enough stops to close the deal and “Finish the Fight?” The Cowboys safety play remains suspect, their pass rush remains absent (and no Henry Melton) and while they have been battling all year, the War is reaching its climax. The biggest tests remains before them.
The Auto-Boys and their 26th ranked passing defense will be asked to stop Megatron, Calvin Johnson, and Golden Tate. This is not a one man mission. They have to stop the run, force Stafford into mistakes, cloud the zone, and be mindful of where Johnson is at all times. No doubt he will be doubled and shaded during the game and Marinelli will give him different looks. With good reason. He is one of, if not the best receiver in the game. Add to that what he accomplished when these two teams last faced off. Megatron ripped the face of the defense off, burning them for 329 yards, and a Touchdown. Be it scheme or talent, the Cowboys were outclassed. There was nothing they could do with one of the mist athletically gifted receivers in the History of the game (Johnson is 6’5, close to 240 pounds and runs a 4.3 forty). When asked why they call him Megatron, they replied because he is built like a machine.
But don’t forget about Golden Tate, their leading receiver in yards and receptions. He is crafty and has become a good target for Stafford. The fourth quarter if the season was a good one for Brandon Carr. He and Orlando Scandrick must continue to make plays and deflect passes if the Cowboys want to be solid on Defense. Much have been talked about the dirty play by Tate against Sean Lee but the biggest revenge will be to win, to knock him and his team out of the playoffs.
The offensive line will also be tested. The Lions have the best rush Defense in football. Two months ago, Arizona came into Arlington with their NFL best Rush Defense and limited DeMarco Murray to 79 yards. What will be the outcome today? While Detroit will be without Nick Farley, Ezekiel Ansah and Ndamukong Suh will look to wreak havoc on this line. Not only do they stop the run, but they also put pressure in the quarterback. Ansah has 7.5 sacks and Suh has 8.5. With everyone watching, the Cowboys line looks to prove that they are worthy of being called the best offensive line in football.
Dez Bryant will play a huge part in this game. Hopes are that he doesn’t let the paper on the sideline affect how he plays against the players in the field. Greatness in your field and area if expertise makes you want to accomplish more. It fuels more. Gives you something to thrive for more. Competition isn’t a bad thing and we all need things that measure us. This Dez vs Calvin story will be a apart of the game, but it shouldn’t be “The” game. The Cowboys have their game plan in place. If they stick to it and exercise matchups, Dez should get his own touches. And when that time comes, look for fireworks.
Romo is 1-3 versus the Lions and all those games have been close. In those four games, he has completed 67 percent of his passes, averaged almost three touchdowns and a pick. The biggest difference is the resurgence of the rushing attack and the rise of DeMarco Murray. Can he get the job done in his playoff game? If he can’t can Romo pick up where he left off in December where he had 12 touchdowns to only one interception with a passer rating of 133.7?
Without a doubt, this is the most talented offense the Cowboys have had in years. The players are playing at a high level and the coaches have them focused and ready. Tony Romo has more weapons than he knows what to do with at times. He can hand it off to the Rush King or throw it to the Touchdown Maker. He has the best safety valve anyone fan ask for in Jason Written who understands this offense and what the opposing team wants to do like no other. Cole Beasley always seem to be open and Terrence Williams is your big play threat. When you get in the Red zone, you can play big boy football or find one of the biggest red zone targets you have in Gavin Escobar. All while being protected by three All-Pro lineman in Tyron Smith, Zach Martin and Travis Frederick.
This Cowboy team has a different feel to it. Romo looks different. Different can be good. Championship contending Cowboys seem like a natural look. Like this is who they were supposed to be. They look right at home.