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Dallas Cowboys Keys to the Game in MNF Matchup with the Arizona Cardinals

For a 2-3 Dallas Cowboys team and a 3-2 Arizona Cardinals team, this game has a high level of importance for both teams. For the Dallas Cowboys, it offers them an opportunity to take a two game lead in the win column over the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Football Team, and the New York Giants. For the Cardinals, it will allow them to stay in the thick of the NFC West race with the Seattle Seahawks (4-2) and the Los Angeles Rams (4-2).

The Dallas Cowboys get their first start from their backup quarterback Andy Dalton, who was brought in for a situation such as this. The Cowboys wanted insurance over a DakPrescott injury and now is the time to take out a claim on that policy. Though things haven’t been as hoped for the Cowboys in 2020, Andy Dalton has an opportunity to help this team win the NFC East and make the playoffs, but much depends on how well he plays.

For Kyler Murray, this game is a huge opportunity on a national stage on Monday Night Football to assert himself into the top 10 quarterback conversation if he’s not already there. The Cowboys secondary is ripe for the picking and his group of receivers can certainly cause the Cowboys some problems. Murray provides one of the more difficult matchups in the league with his ability to throw the ball and his skills as a runner. As a runner, he’s so quick and arguably the most elusive quarterback in the NFL.

Play a Clean Game Offensively

With as bad as the defense has been in 2020, the offense doesn’t have much margin for error. They have to play a sound football game. They don’t have to be perfect, because it’s unrealistic for any NFL team to play perfectly and score every time they have the football. However, they have to play a clean game. That means they can’t turn the ball over and they can’t kill themselves with untimely penalties and sacks.

Andy Dalton shouldn’t be expected to play as well as DakPrescott has through the first five games of the season, but he has to protect the football better than Dak had. Same goes for running back Ezekiel Elliott who has had several fumbles at the ends of runs.

The Cowboys coaching staff has to protect Andy Dalton, especially if they want to take some deep shots. With Brandon Knight and Terrance Steele expected to continue starting at the tackle spots, they shouldn’t leave those guys on an island and go empty backfield. Kellen Moore needs to provide help for Steele especially.

Linebackers Must Play Disciplined

You can bet that Arizona Cardinals Head Coach and playcallerKliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray are licking their chops as they get ready to play the Dallas Cowboys and their league worst defense tonight in Arlington, a place Murray has had a ton of success.

In particular, the Dallas Cowboys linebackers have been susceptible to play action, reverses, and misdirection. With Kyler Murray’s passing and running ability, you can bet that Kingsbury is going to call quite a few read-options and play-action bootlegs to try and take advantage of this linebacker group’s aggressiveness.

Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and Joe Thomas will have to stay disciplined in their calls as teams attempt to exploit them in the run and pass game.

Cowboys Pass Rush Must Contain and Hassle Kyler Murray

As I said above, Kyler Murray is arguably the most elusive quarterback in the NFL with his quickness, change of direction ability, and burst. He’s so shifty in the pocket that it makes him incredibly difficult to contain. On the way to getting pressure on the former Heisman Trophy winner and number one overall pick, the Dallas Cowboys can’t allow him to run free very often.

Kyler Murray is unafraid to take off and scramble if given a lane with nothing down the field and his quickness and burst allow him to get to the second level in a flash. DeMarcus Lawrence, Aldon Smith, Tyrone Crawford, and Everson Griffen can’t afford to rush outside of their gaps and allow Murray free yards.

Kyler Murray’s going to get some big runs, they just have to limit how often that happens.

Cowboys Stars Must Rise to the Occasion

While they’ve had some good games this year, it’s time for players like Amari Cooper, Zack Martin, Ezekiel Elliott, DeMarcus Lawrence, Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Eschto lead this team and take over some games. Yes, they are parts of the whole, but without they’re most important player, DakPrescott, these parts have to do more than their share to help the Dallas Cowboys win enough over the next 11 games to make the playoffs.

Lawrence has to build off of his strong performance last week against the New York Giants which saw him rack up nine total pressures, a sack, and a forced fumble. They need Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper to take the lead offensively to make life easier on Andy Dalton. Elliott, in particular will need to be on point in his pass protection to help Terrance Steele, Brandon Knight, and Tyler Biadasz protect Andy Dalton in his first start of the 2020 season.

The linebackers need to get back to their 2018 form where they looked to have the potential to be one of the best linebacker duos in the NFL.

The Cowboys best players can’t sit back and wait for others to make a play. They have to go out and impose their will to help Andy Dalton and the rest of the team as they try to get back to .500.

What do you think?

John Williams

Written by John Williams

Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual, reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.

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