Game Keys – Dallas

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Having picked Dallas to win the Super Bowl, I obviously believe that they are a legit team. They are talented, they play hard and they are led by a guy who really, really wants to win. Romo may have what appears to be an easy-going, it’s all good, persona off the field. But when he plays, he plays really hard and wants to win badly. I still think (as I did before our fantasy draft) that Romo and Brees are this year’s Manning and Brady (I took Brees at #4 pick overall and I thought re taking Romo).

  • GB’s linebacking corps has perhaps its toughest assignment of the year this week – stopping a relentless runner in Marion Barber (as well as a shiftier runner in Felix Jones) AND, and this is a big AND, accounting for the highly talented Jason Witten. Witten is a monster out there and he is Romo’s security blanket. Some of the coverage duties may fall to Collins and/or Rouse too, so these guys also will need to step up this week. Take away Witten (and to a much lesser extent Martellus Bennett) and you take away the option Romo feels he can fall back on for 90% of their pass plays.
  • Having Woodson cover TO. I firmly agree with CheeseheadTV on this one. Harris has been known to shut down some quality receivers in the past few years, but last year both Plax and TO ate him up – and overall, Harris is not playing to the level he played at just 2 years ago. Also, Woodson adds a dimension in coverage that Harris appears to lack – the ability to jump routes, read QBs and come away with interceptions. If Woodson covers TO and has an early pick (actually, ironically, like Harris did last year if only the officiating didn’t totally suck in that game), it might make Romo even the slightest bit gun shy re firing over to TO.
  • Rouse needs a big play early. When Rouse is only peripherally involved in a game, he tends to look lost (like last week in Detroit) and importantly, he’s just not that effective. But when he makes a noticeable play, especially early on, it seems to light a fire in him. It almost reminds him that he can play at this level.
  • Keeping close tabs on DeMarcus Ware. This guy is super-talented and our O-Line and especially our RBs need to do everything possible to keep this guy at bay. He also can be a punishing hitter when he does have an open shot at the QB – so keep him away.
  • Screens – I know I often include screens in game keys mostly because I think they can be very effective, though seldom used, plays. And when you have an aggressive front 7 like Dallas, screens can also help tame that aggressiveness because they can be not-so-subtle reminders to defenders that pushing up field on every play isn’t always the best defensive strategy.
  • Countering their TE game plan with our own. After studying game film, Dallas is likely focusing on Jennings, Driver, Grant maybe, possibly James Jones – but probably not as worried re Donald Lee and Tory Humphrey. Sunday night would be a good time to remind other NFL teams going forward that they need to not only account for all 5 of our receivers and our RB when we’re passing, but also our solid TEs.
  • Writer Jason Wilde (Wisconsin State Journal) made a great point on ESPN Milwaukee radio the other day when he said that when Grant played last week, he got the ball on 15 of the 20 plays he was in. So Wilde was saying MM needs to be careful re doing something like this again because it becomes painfully obvious that when Grant goes in, chances are really good he’ll get the ball. I agree with what I believe Wilde’s larger point was – that Grant should either just play 100% as the starter or maybe not play at all. (Lumpkin is ready for primetime anyway).
  • Get the Dallas secondary on its heels right away with a few long, early bombs.
  • D-Line pressure would be nice, but Romo is very mobile so I think tight coverage is more important. Romo tends to get antsy after a bit of time if his guys are covered and that’s when he makes mistakes.
  • Mason Crosby could be called upon to decide this game. He’s ready.
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8 Responses to “Game Keys – Dallas”

  1. Aaron Says:

    “Get the Dallas secondary on its heels right away with a few long, early bombs.”

    Isn’t that what got us into trouble last year? ;)

  2. Trav Says:

    Agree on the Woodson – TO match up. Harris just gets too caught up in the match-up sometimes.

    Not sure I agree 100% with going deep early. What I would like to see in the first few series is the Packers having some 2nd and short opportunities, which then leads to being able to stretch the field a bit more. If they miss, they are still be able to keep the drive going with a manageable 3rd down distance rather than 3 and 8, etc.

    The D line and LB corp need to hit Romo early and often. I like how they have been mixing up their blitzes and applying pressure so far.

    Finally, they cannot put the ball on the ground. No turnovers or boneheaded plays/penalities.

  3. awhayes Says:

    Trav – actually the scenario you outlined (2nd and short) is just the kind of play I was thinking of going long on. I wouldn’t do it much, just a calculated attempt to someone like Jones or Nelson if possible.

    Winning turnover battle is critical in this game, seems more than others for some reason. Even if we puke it up once, as long as we take it away 2+ times, we should be fine.

  4. Trav Says:

    Yeah, we are definitely on the same page for those items.

    I was talking with a few friends last night and one person wondered about special teams. In the preseason, they ran a reverse on a kickoff. Do they unveil something like that on Sunday or was it more a ploy to get teams to have to prepare for it, but they never use it? I say why not…it’s Sunday night, everyone is amp’d up, maybe you catch someone out of their lane. Others in the group talked about the use of gadget plays as the sign of a weak team.

  5. Dave in Tucson Says:

    I would say the key to a Packer win this Sunday boils down to one thing: don’t give the Cowboys a short field, either through interceptions or bad kick-off/punt coverage.

    That’s basically what cost them the win last year. The Cowboys had 7 scoring drives, and four of them were less than 50 yards long — the Packers can’t let that happen again if they want to win.

    D∈T

  6. bucky Says:

    The Dallas secondary looked pretty lost in the first half against the Iggles on Monday night. In fact, their entire defense looked out of synch. They stepped it up in the second half, but they’re gonna have to play a lot better to stop the Packers. Green Bay doesn’t have a back as versatile or explosive as Westbrook, but Ryan Grant is certainly capable of busting loose and putting up some serious numbers. And the Eagles’ WRs are a mere shadow of the Packers’.

    I think if the Cowboys try to use their LBs to put pressure on the QB or stop the run, that will open up a whole lot of slants and gos against what I think is merely an adequate secondary. If they drop them back to help against the pass, I think GB can run on them quite effectively.

    Where the Packers have to worry is when the Cowboys have the ball. Dallas can move the ball through the air and on the ground, for sustained drives or for a quick strike. Not a lot different from GB in that respect. Marion Barber is an excellent back, but he doesn’t seem to be all that durable. Perhaps a meeting with Mr. Hawk will remind him of that fact. I’m fine with Rouse starting, but I am with those who would like to see Woodson on TO. Also, the task of shadowing Witten CANNOT be given to Brady Poppinga; that is a recipe for disaster.

    I think the Packers’ secondary is better than Dallas’, although the Cowboys O-line is probably more solid. I think both D-lines are good, as are both LB corps.

    In the end, my bet is that this comes down to the quarterbacks. Romo has the advantage of being more experienced, particularly in big games. However, in those big games he seems to always have a couple of absolute brain freezes (last week’s fumble in the end zone, the Seattle playoff bobble of the snap on the potential game winning field goal). Maybe this is more my heart than anything else, but I think Rodgers has a somewhat better game than Romo and the Packers win by 3-7 points.

  7. awhayes Says:

    bucky, money comment. Dave on the mark re field position. Trav, as for trick plays, it’s hard to say. I too have heard the “trick plays are for weak teams” but I don’t buy it (being a shameless proponent of trick plays like fake punts/kicks etc). I think there is always room for a quality trick play, but it has to be well-timed. In fact, I often find trick plays work best when things are going well – for example, an on-side kick after scoring a TD in the first half.

  8. Ron La Canne Says:

    Special teams will be critical again. With the little yellow chomping circle to deal with, this is a key. No run backs!

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