The Cowboys are back in action on Sunday as they look to atone for their horror opening game against the Buccaneers.
There is only one good thing about a loss; you know that players will want to put in a better outing the following week. For the Cowboys, that comes on Sunday against Joe Burrow and the Bengals.
Against Tampa Bay, Dallas could not get the ball moving on offense, scoring just three points which came on the game's opening possession. After that, it was painful viewing.
So, what exactly does Dallas have to do to get its first win of the NFL season?
Establish the run game
Kind of a no-brainer, right? Cooper Rush is under center, and although we have seen him in his only career start get a win over the Minnesota Vikings as he completed 24 of his 40 passes for 325 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception, that was with vastly better weapons and a better O-Line.
Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott gained between 5 and 7 yards on eight of his 10 carries Sunday vs. Buccaneers. Last year, when limited by knee injury, he went 11 straight games (Weeks 6 to 17) without recording that many gains of 5 or more yards in same outing. Good sign for run game. pic.twitter.com/YlroD18lFP
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) September 12, 2022
If Rush attempts 40 passes on Sunday, Dallas loses. Ezekiel Elliott showed that he seemed to have his burst and power back against Tampa, grabbing 52 yards rushing on 10 carries. Pollard looked explosive, but poor play calling saw him not yield too many yards.
Establishing the run game is paramount on Sunday. It will take the pressure off Rush and will force the Bengals' defense to commit to stopping the run. That will then, in turn, open up passing lanes for the Cowboys' troubled receiving corps. Elliott needs to be the bell cow on Sunday.
Receivers need to step up
He is currently on a 9-game streak without a touchdown counting last season's playoffs.
The passing game will need to be a bit simpler for Rush, and as mentioned above, that starts with the run game. But that will mean nothing if Dallas’ receivers can’t hold onto the ball. Against the Buccaneers, the Cowboys receivers combined for 23 catches on 39 targets. That seems decent at face value, but there were a lot of poor throws and failure to get any separation.
While Dak Prescott was poor, he wasn’t helped by his receiving group either. Rush will need his receivers to get separation and make plays consistently if they are to have any hope of pulling out a win.
The defense needs to stop the run
It feels like every year we talk about this with the Cowboys. For all their improvement last year, stopping the run wasn’t their one wood. Thirteen times last season (including playoffs), Dallas allowed over 100 yards rushing. Four of those were over 140 yards, with Denver (190 rush yards) their poorest outing.
127 yards on the ground. 6.0 yards per carry.
— NFL (@NFL) September 12, 2022
You can have the best defense in the league, but if the offense keeps putting you out on the field for extended periods, eventually, you will break. Against Tampa Bay, they allowed 152 yards rushing. That can be attributed to the offense getting numerous three-and-outs and forcing them back into the field quickly.
Leonard Fournette was responsible for 127 rush yards on Sunday, and with the Bengals having Joe Mixon, who can be a bruiser, the defensive line needs to shut down the Cincinnati run game.
Cowboys defense needs to clamp Ja'Marr Chase
It is asking a lot, but Trevon Diggs needs to keep Chase quiet. The Steelers couldn't last week as he went for 129 yards and a touchdown on 10 receptions.
Diggs will likely get the match-up, and if he can't curtail Chase's influence, we know that Burrow will look to him and look to him often. It could be a long day for the Cowboys' defense if Chase is allowed to get off the chain.
Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase on Cowboys CB Trevon Diggs: He’s not too much on technique sound, though. He’s a little… hit or miss. He’s all the way on or he’s like not on at all, so. But he’s definitely a great athlete.
— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) September 16, 2022
Is it a case of simply sending two players to the star receiver, taking away the Bengals' number one weapon? Making other receivers in Tyler Boyd, tight end Hayden Hurst and possibly Tee Higgins beat you?
We do not know what Dan Quinn is thinking, but in all the defensive meetings, stopping Ja'Marr Chase should be the main thing they discuss. He is a true game-wrecker.