For Cowboy fans and analysts, one of the biggest frustrations watching the Dallas Cowboys has been their inability to find a rhythm until the second or third quarter. The way they’ve played in the first quarter has been the biggest reason the Cowboys sit at 6-4 instead of having a record similar to this week’s opponent the New England Patriots.
Through turnovers, penalties, drops, and an insistence on prioritizing the running game early on, the Dallas Cowboys have been slow to find themselves until they’ve been down a score or more early on. In games against the New York Jets, Green Bay Packers, and the Minnesota Vikings, they dug themselves such a deep hole that, despite furious comebacks in all three of those matchups, they were unable to complete the comeback.
There’s no telling what would have happened if early mistakes weren’t compounded by terrible defensive efforts in the first half of those games. All of that is the reason the Cowboys are in must-win mode for the rest of the 2019 season.
As they get ready to face the New England Patriots, who sit at 9-1 and in first place in the AFC East, the Cowboys can’t afford any kind of slow start this week to beat quite possibly the greatest dynasty in the history of the NFL.
This week’s matchup is a game that the Dallas Cowboys can win, much like every other game they’ve played this season. The question at this point is, will the Cowboys get out of their own way to go out and win a game that most people don’t think they will win. They’ve been playing some really good football, even if their record has been so up and down this season.
Their offense has been so good this season and are getting better as the season goes along, in particular the passing game. Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Randall Cobb have found their stride the last few weeks as Prescott’s put up historic numbers. The running game hasn’t been great the last couple of weeks, but it hasn’t mattered. The Cowboys have been able to move the ball really well for most of these games.
If there’s an area that needs to get better, it’s on the defensive side of the ball. They’ve had their moments this season, but they’ve been inconsistent. The defense at times this year has put the Cowboys in a hole by getting gashed on the ground or by running backs catching passes in the screen game. Both of those could become issues on Sunday against the Patriots as James White is one of the best receiving backs in the NFL and Sony Michel can be a dangerous runner as well.
The defense needs to start off more sound in the run game and can’t allow Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, and Mohamed Sanu to hurt them in the passing game. In coverage, the Cowboys will likely give up catches as a lot of throws will be targeted underneath. The key for the defense is to tackle in open space and get several defenders to the ball carrier in case the first guy can’t get them down. If there was a week to play aggressive in the secondary
The Patriots are first in the NFL in turnover differential, third in the league in offensive scoring, and first in points allowed. Tom Brady may not be playing the best football of his career, but he’s still Tom Brady.
Facing one of the best defenses in the NFL, the greatest head coach of all-time, and one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, the Dallas Cowboys can’t afford to give anything away against New England. Now that doesn’t mean they have to score every drive, because it’s unrealistic to expect any offense to score every drive, but they can’t beat themselves. Too often this season, especially in the first half, the Cowboys have had drives stall out because of penalties or drops on offense. And too often, the defense hasn’t been able to get off the field early in games.
The Cowboys have a huge opportunity to make a statement this week and pick up a victory over the most successful NFL team of the last 20 years. Style points don’t matter in the NFL, however, getting a win over an opponent like the New England Patriots would do a lot for their self-confidence as a team.
Though their 6-4 record might not prove it, the Dallas Cowboys believe they can play with anyone in the NFL and are one of the league’s best. Sunday afternoon in Foxborough, Massachusetts, would be a perfect time to prove it.