By Greg Doyle, Patriots Daily Staff
Dallas visits Foxboro Sunday at 4:15 PM for its once-every-eight-years appearance there sporting a 2-2 record and ready to take on the 4-1 Patriots. Both teams have excellent offenses. Mistakes are likely to be the key to this game. Lets take a look at some important angles heading into the game and find out which team is likely to make more mistakes and lead to the other prevailing.
Tony Romo, #9, Quarterback: Its been said this season that the Cowboys could be 0-4 without Romo, but they also could be 4-0 but for him. And, really, its true. There is no better statement on the inconsistency that is Tony Romo than that. Playing currently with broken ribs, Romo has gacked away a couple games this year, first the opener versus the Jets and in the Cowboys last game being largely responsible for blowing a 27-3 lead versus the Lions. He reminds a bit of Brett Favre, but not as consistent. At least Favre, the poster child of reckless, undisciplined, inconsistent, gunslinger football, managed to play at a MVP level for a few years under Head Coach Mike Holmgren and win a Super Bowl. Romo never has and never will reach that type of success. Will the Patriots see the good Romo or bad Romo Sunday? Its anyone’s guess, but if I had to venture one, I’d say they’d see some of both. He can vary from quarter to quarter, series to series. And in the end, that probably dooms Dallas’ chances.
Dez Bryant, #88, Wide Receiver: Bryant is an explosive player who the Patriots will have to contain on Sunday. He can hurt you catching, running or returning the football. He, too, has been a bit inconsistent early in his career, but he is a true weapon and given the Patriots struggles in passing defense this season, a huge challenge on Sunday. He has been a bit injury riddled his first two years in the league. He has missed time this year, as has his wide receiver running mate Miles Austin. The two look on pace to be back together this week, however, after participating fully in practice on Wednesday. Interestingly, it was a trade with the Patriots that allowed Dallas to take Bryant as they traded up to get the Patriots 24th pick in the 2010 draft. The Patriots received picks in return that resulted in their drafting of Devin McCourty and Taylor Price.
Jason Witten, #82, Tight End: Witten is one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the NFL and a 7-time Pro Bowler. While the Patriots held the Jets tight end Dustin Keller, also an excellent receiver, to a mere one catch for seven yards last week, Witten is at a higher level than Keller and will be a bigger challenge. Focus on Witten and the Patriots could open up other Dallas weapons. It’ll be a huge challenge for them.
DeMarcus Ware, #94, Outside Linebacker: The 29-year-old Ware is probably the top pass rusher in all the NFL. When he came out of college from small school Troy State, Ware was a bit raw but incredibly athletic. Over the years, he’s learned more about playing his position and rushing the passer. He has racked up double-digit sacks in each of the last five years and is well on his way again this year with 5 thru 4 games. Ware has played versus the Patriots once, in 2007. That game Ware managed 10 combined tackles and a sack. The Cowboys move Ware around a lot so its hard to project just one lineman on him. But rest assured, stopping him and giving Brady time will be the key to the Patriots being able to outscore Dallas and taking advantage of Dallas’ weak secondary.
Injuries: The Patriots have Mike Wright back on the injury list as not participating in practice, along with Jerod Mayo who is out this week, and Josh Barrett. The good news for them is Tackle Sebastian Vollmer is back participating, as well as Kick Returner Julian Edelman and Running Back Danny Woodhead, all of whom were out last week. As mentioned earlier, the Cowboys had both Miles Austin and Dez Bryant practicing which has to be considered great news for them. Defensive Lineman Jason Hatcher is still out and likely to miss the game, along with guard Derrick Dockery.
Cowboys Message Board: Cowboys fans seem cautiously optimistic for Sunday. Here are some examples from the True Blue Message Board. the turk says physical play is the key to the Cowboys winning:
The Jets Eliminated the Pats from the play offs by knocking the decals off their head-gear each time they touched the ball
“They were not as PHYSICAL yesterday and LOST
The COWBOYS MUST BE PHYSICAL AGAINST THE PATS TO WIN !!!
your thoughts ??”
The turk may be right, but the Cowboys are about the least physical team I can think of. Not a good recipe for them.
Mike88Irvin wants to know if the Cowboys will bump Wes Welker:
Thats the only way to slow this guy down, we just need to knock him off his route a little bit to disrupt their timing. If we dont bump Welker then we might as well not come to play on Sunday.
That never stopped you, Mike.
08blueblood08 says The Patriots present a chance for the Cowboys have to put up or shut up:
I am not saying we will beat the patriots or we wont, but we darn well better play with a purpose. No more of these senseless penalties, underachieving, foolish turnovers, not knowing the plays, and making excuses. This team needs to come out and play to their capabilities.
These things have been The Cowboys trademark for the last several years at least. It won’t change Sunday.
Prediction: We don’t see Dallas matching up with the Patriots very well. They’re not a physical or disciplined team and will be playing on the road. They do have the benefit of coming off a bye week and should be up for the game given the blown lead against Detroit two weeks ago. They have many weapons on offense, albeit in a mistake-prone attack. Defensively they have some playmakers in Sean Lee, Ware and Gerald Sensabaugh. But the Patriots offense will score. The defense will take advantage of enough Dallas mistakes to help out And the Patriots will walk away with a 34-17 victory.