First let’s look back at the previous pregame analysis of last week’s game where the Cowboys defeated the Eagles 38-23. In that blog I stated what I thought had to happen for Dallas to win.
1. “QB with most turnovers will lose”. Coming into the game both Romo and Vick had plenty of turnovers. Romo had no turnovers in the game while Vick left early with an injury and was replaced by the back up QB Foles. Foles, a rookie, threw a pick 6 and had a fumble that went for a TD. The Eagles QB had the most turnovers and they lost.
2. “Cowboys need to run the ball at least 20 times to win.” Actually I say this every week and they rarely do it but against the Eagles the Cowboys rushed 24 times for more than 100 yards. And they won the game. Romo had less yards than normal (209 yards) but the Cowboys were able to generate a bit of a running game even without Murray. This appears to be a winning formula. Less passing and more rushing plus take the ball away = win.
3. “Cowboys need to keep McCoy under 100 yards rushing”. The Cowboys held McCoy to 82 yards rushing and they won the game. McCoy did break off a couple nice runs but the Cowboys kept him in check and were effective at keeping him out of the endzone. That put the game in the rookie QB’s hands and Foles made mistakes.
4. “Cowboys can’t fall behind by more than 10 points and win.” Dallas trailed to the Eagles by 7 in the second half but never more than that which meant they did not have to go to the pass only game in trying to catch up. With Romo, less is more. Having him throw less, results in him being more effective with less turnovers.
BROWNS (2-7 record)
The Browns don’t have an impressive record but they have played good teams tough. They have rarely lost by much of a margin and while it may sound cliché, they truly are much better than their record would indicate.
QB Brandon Weeden: He is a rookie and has looked like one at times this year by throwing 12 INTs (but still one INT less than Romo) this year. Weeden’s QB rating is 67.9 placing him near the bottom of the NFL. He doesn’t exactly have a strong supporting cast around him at WR and the Browns rank 18th in the NFL for passing yards.
BROWNS Ground Game: The Browns rushing game currently ranks 27th in the NFL with 82 yards a game. Not rushing effectively has just put more of the pressure on their rookie QB leading to mistakes. Rookie Alabama RB Trent Richardson provides a running game and in fact he has over 100 yards rushing in each of their last two games.
My Take: To win the game the Cowboys need to intercept Weeden at least once. This is not the time to let the rookie QB feel comfortable. Make sure the game is in his hands and allow him to make turnovers. The Cowboys defense only has 4 INTs this season but managed a pick 6 last week in Philly. Rookie CB Morris Claibourne had an awful game last week and must play better this week. At least stop the holding penalties.
Also keep Richardson under 100 yards.
The Browns are yet another opponent that Dallas faces who have not been very good against the run. Allowing 132 yards a game rushing, places them at 27th in rush defense. Former Cowboys RB Tashard Choice had 91 yards against the Browns for the Bills. Now that’s saying something.
While the Browns run defense hasn’t been stellar, their pass defense has 10 INTs this year which makes them one of the better teams in the NFL in picking off passes. In comparison, Dallas only has 4 INTs this season. The Browns have 14 sacks this year which only ranks them 28th in that category.
MY TAKE: The Cowboys need to run the ball at least 20 times to win. They can’t abandon it and put it all on Romo or the Browns will be too close for comfort. They also should get 100 yards rushing or more against the Browns defense. Romo needs to know that the Browns secondary is opportunistic and picked off Michael Vick 4 times in the first game of the season. Since Romo has a tendency to throw it up for grabs at times, he must protect the ball and stick with the run a bit more than normal. If Romo throws more than one INT, I don’t like the Cowboys chances of winning the game.
SUMMARY: No doubt about it, the Cowboys are a better team than the Browns and they have an excellent opportunity to gain ground in the NFC East. But as Cowboy fans know, with this team there is no such thing as a sure thing. Can’t underestimate Romo’s ability to let the Browns have a shot to win this one. Another week where it would be nice to have Murray however Felix Jones has been playing better and should provide enough running game to take pressure off Romo.