Season feels lost, dunnit? Well it probably is. We're more likely to get blown out -- much more likely -- than we are to pull an upset, in Dallas.
Still, I can conceive of the Cowboys playing down to our level, Romo being slightly sloppy, our run defense not letting their #1 DVOA running game assert Dallas' superiority right away, and their poor pass defense allowing us to move the ball when we put a TE AND a chipping back on either side of Big Mac against Ware all day. I'm not even being optimistic, I doubt it will come to this at all, but if it does, those are the elements that will conduct all hope of an upset.
So what else is there for us? Whence the last refuge of a scoundrel? While macro factors often dictate most of life and football, sometimes the devil is in the details, so let's just make a quick study of our next opponent.
Found via Football Outsiders, the weekly Football 301 series breaking down the Cowboys' previous game. They lit up the Falcons. Also allowed a lot of points. They harrassed Matt Ryan and that was probably what decided the game.
But this was an interesting read. Great breakdowns, but very light on conclusions. From the outside with little exposure, it looks like one of the leading guidelines of Jason Garrett is to use formations in situations to really strongly suggest a run or pass, a sweep or stretch when a run, and then either do the opposite or exactly as the formation is built for, attempting surprise defenses and then utilize the formation's advantage when they anticipate surprises. Not that that's very novel in today's NFL, but I'm not sure offenses are so heavily built around as what this suggests. Maybe it was just the matchup with Atlanta that made him lean like that.
Nevertheless, I'm not so sure there is much devil in these details. The plays highlighted ultimately look to stem from execution. The Austin TD must have been some kind of mistake in the secondary, but most of these plays don't look like the Falcons were tricked or even played poorly, but simply got beat at the point by speed or power.
So what does that mean for us? I don't think that's attacking our weaknesses. That's presuming their gameplan for us won't be substantially different. I think we've got speed on the edges. Especially the second level. We've got some power defense to work with.
I can see some frustration from Cole routinely losing his matchups on runs, though. I can see our pass rush not being good enough, though I do feel our secondary will be otherwise up to the task. Dunno why. And I can see Witten having a big day. I feel Austin will be contained.
I could see blitzes being effective, though. I feel their focus is and will be a lot more on what they're going to do offensively than what we will do. I would be surprised to learn that Wade Phillips had his team scout Leroy Hill's usage in prior years. They know we use Curry in pressure from the strong side and as a down lineman, and they know the same about Tapp, I'm positive.
Beyond that, they have a stout line, a run game that must always be respected, and they'll feel prepared. Without Lofa we lost some blitz effectiveness, but with gap discipline the way they appear to attack you I don't see a lot of fruit in playing mental chess against Garrett anyway. Hawthorne and Curry staying disciplined will go a long way in enabling the rest of the team to try to be competitive. If they use so many backs and multiple TEs, surely the hot routes will prevail more often than not against extra pressure, but sometimes you only need a few to work out, to turn into gamechanging plays. They've won more than once despite Bad Romo showing up, but compromising some TE production for the chances of blowing a few plays up seems to be to be the best approach to this matchup.