It’s the battle of
both of the America’s Teams America’s REAL Team vs the Team That Parades Itself Around As America’s Team. The Patriots take on the Cowboys this weekend, in case you didn’t get the joke. While Dallas is sitting pretty atop their pitiful division at 4-1, New England is sitting at 2-3 looking up a Buffalo in the AFC East. The Cowboys could take an L here and still have a successful season, but for the Pats? Not so much. This is a very important game, especially with the Chargers, Panthers and Browns coming up. Must-win’s are overused, but this is a almost-need-to-win.
So with that being said, let’s see how the Pats can put down the Boys.
Throw The Ball…A Lot
I mentioned it on this weeks episode of Tuck Rule Takes, but the Cowboys are not good at defending the pass. At all. In fact, the Bucs are the only team worse than them in yards allowed per game. I bring up Tampa because Mac Jones had the best game of his young career against that Tampa D. In Week 4, he threw for 275, 2 TD’s and a 77.50 completion percentage. All of those numbers were career high’s by the way. Dallas is slightly better when it comes to opposing completion percentage and QB rating, but overall, this defense is very reminiscent of what Mac faced two weeks ago.
And when it comes to Dallas getting after the QB, they are middle of the pack at best in most categories. With the offensive line apparently headed in the right direction, they should be able to give Mac time to throw Sunday. And Jones has proven that if you give him time to work, he’s good. And with a banged up Damien Harris and rookie Rhamondre Stevenson still getting his feet wet, it’s time to air it out.
The Patriots are currently being outscored 23-10 in the first quarter. That doesn’t sound that bad, but when you realize that, other than Week 2, you’ve been held scoreless in the first, it becomes a problem. When you go up against an offense as potent as the Cowboys, you can’t afford to play catchup. In my eyes, this situation can be remedied by my previous point: throw the ball. Dallas’ secondary can be taken advantage of and that’s what Josh McDaniels needs to attack early and often.
As long as the offensive line has another similar performance to last week, you need to let Mac cut it loose a bit. And no, I’m not talking about 3 consecutive screens that get you absolutely nowhere. We’re talking plays that are designed to move the ball down the field. I’m not saying you need constant 20+ yard cunk plays, but let’s make 10-15 yard passes commonplace this weekend. Passing is the best way to score on Dallas, and you need to score early to keep the pressure on. So I guess the motto this week is “Let Mac cook”.
Slow Down The Run
Slowing down this Cowboys offense isn’t going to be easy. They sit second in the league with 34 PPG and have put up 40+ points in 2 of their last 3 games (they put up 36 in the other game). No matter what stat you look at offensively, they’re towards the top of the league. And while their passing game is good, where they really excel is in on the ground. Dallas is averaging 172.8 yards per game (2nd in the league) with 6 TD’s to go with it (4th in the league). You need to slow down that running game if you want any chance of winning this game.
The Patriots defense has gotten better and better in the last 4 games stopping the run. They currently sit at 15th in the league allowing 111yards per game. That’s not great, but the Patriots rush defense is certainly trending upward. Over the last 4 games, they’ve continued to improve allowing fewer and fewer yards each week. They’re going to need to continue that trend Sunday as well. And if they can slow down Zeke, they’ll be forcing Dallas to play into their strongest unit: pass defense. Even though Davis Mills torched the Pats secondary last weekend, they’re still a Top 5 pass defense. Crazy right? I believe that goes to show that last week was an anomaly of sorts.
The Cowboys are 11th in the league in pass yards per game (266) and 3rd in passing TD’s (13), so stopping them won’t be an easy task. But if JC Jackson rounds back into form, as he should, you’re in good shape. And Jalen Mills practiced on Wednesday, so you assume he’ll be good to go. With a healthy secondary, you have a pretty good shot of slowing Dak down. Oh, and let’s not foget Matt Judon and his 6.5 sacks either. Again, I’m not saying stopping the pass will be easy, but if you can force the Cowboys to go against your best unit on D, that’s a game you feel comfortable with.
Look, this is going to be a tough game. No matter what way you look at it, the Pats have their work cut out for them. But I believe stopping the run and scoring early is a recipe to success. The Patriots are coming off a big comeback win and they’ll use that momentum to their advantage. Also, don’t let last week’s defensive performance fool you. New England has a really good defense that continues to get better. They’ll show that this week on their way to 3-3 going into Jets Week.
(Featured Photo Credit www.dallascowboys.com)
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Mike Sullivan (@msully5433 on Twitter)