I would guess that you could write a short book about the questions this week. I have another book on Civil War prize cases to finish (very belatedly), so I won’t be the one to do so. Here is, however, seven questions for the week:
(1) Can the Cowboys prove that they have a short memory? Dallas has not lost two in a row all season and have bounced back from some tough losses all year. Have no reason to think they can’t do it again.
Mick’s Shots points out how important this game is:
The Cowboys certainly don’t want to lose this one. If they do, that will be another team they won’t have a tiebreaker advantage over. They already lose a head-to-head with New Orleans. The Giants currently have a 1½-game lead in division record and a one-game lead in conference record. And beating Philly on Christmas Day would only give them a split in the two-game series. Need this one, or things will get mighty sticky.
(2) Does Dallas do anything differently with Tony Romo this week? Bill Parcells suggested that he was going to simplify the offense to some extent for Romo, but I’m not sure that was the problem. Blocking would help. It would also help if Dallas weren’t trailing by a double-digit score.
Quarterback Tony Romo’s forgettable performance in Sunday’s 42-17 loss to New Orleans served as a reality check for Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells and his offensive assistants.
Now it’s up to them to make sure Romo gets back on track.
“It’s like, ‘Hey, let’s take a look at this, and let’s not get too far off the reservation ourselves,’” Parcells said.
With that in mind, Parcells said he is considering simplifying his offensive game plan Saturday against the Atlanta Falcons. NBC analyst John Madden suggested during the telecast of the Saints game that the Cowboys were asking Romo to do too much, a theory Parcells indicated he supports.
“Yeah, or cutting down some of the options on some of the things we’re doing,” Parcells said Monday. “That would be under the category of simplifying.”
(3) Does the Cowboys secondary respond? Roy Williams’ coverage skills (lack thereof) have become more of a focal point this season, given the problems in the Cowboys secondary.
Cowboys Pro Bowl safety Roy Williams said he doesn’t hear the criticism about his coverage skills.
But Williams does remain hyper-sensitive to questions that he and the secondary have struggled in coverage. The Cowboys’ secondary was picked apart Sunday by New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, who threw for 384 yards and five touchdowns.
Is it time for T.O. to go? Yes No
The Cowboys’ pass defense fell to 19th in the league and is giving up 212 yards per game.
“I think we’ve done all right in coverage,” said Williams, who has a team-high five interceptions. “Everybody is not going to have a perfect game. Stop making it seem like everybody is perfect. Just because it happened last week doesn’t mean we’ve had horrible coverage the whole season. Get over it. Yeah, we didn’t perform like we wanted to, and this week is another week and we can try to make up for last week.”
(4) Does that Terrell Owens fellow prove that he is the major force to stop on the Cowboys’ offense? According to an online poll on the Fort Worth Star Telegram, 67 percent of more than 2200 people who voted said that it was time for Owens to go. Wow.
(5) Can the Cowboys contain Michael Vick and the Atlanta running backs? It is not clear which, if either, of the Falcon running backs — Warrick Dunn or Jerious Norwood– will play in this game. The fewer quality players to run routes in the flats, the better…
(6) How many of us will be listening to this game on the radio? I’m getting more than a little bit ticked off about various aspects of NFL Network this season, given that I am paying for it but don’t get the games. If I end up missing this game… well, I’ll keep watching. Lying is a bad idea.
(7) Prediction: Dallas 20, Atlanta 10. This is based on nothing but hope.
Will Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys rebound from their Week 14 pounding from the New Orleans Saints and re-establish their profile as a strong postseason contender by beating the Atlanta Falcons?
DeMarcus Ware might be asked to spy on Marcus Vick on Saturday night.
But it won’t happen on the strength of Romo’s passing arm. It will happen because of the Cowboys’ ability to pound the football with Julius Jones and Marion Barber. The Cowboys can’t leave all of the offensive pressure on Romo. They must control the ball and set the tempo of the game by letting Jones and Barber combine for at minimum of 30 carries. Against the Saints, Jones and Barber combined for 12 attempts, and Jones didn’t do much after running 77 yards for a touchdown on his first carry.
The Cowboys defense will do its part, first, by containing Michael Vick. Much of that responsibility should fall on the shoulder pads of outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware. The Cowboys need to borrow a page from the game plan the Tampa Bay Buccaneers used against Atlanta in Week 14, when outside linebacker Derrick Brooks shadowed Vick the entire game and held him to only 5 yards on three carries.
The Cowboys must force Vick to try and beat them with his arm, and then take away his receivers by getting physical with them. The Cowboys have aggressive cornerbacks, and they are capable of doing a good job of jamming Ashley Lelie, Roddy White and Michael Jenkins at the line and disrupting their routes. As a result, the Cowboys should have more freedom to use safeties and linebackers in blitzing and also involve a safety and helping with coverage of Vick’s go-to pass-catcher, tight end Alge Crumpler.