The Dallas Cowboys Home Field Disadvantage Analyzed

DeMarco Murray

DeMarco Murray

In 2014, the Dallas Cowboys have been road warriors with a perfect 7-0 record. Sporting the best road record in the NFL but in home games, Dallas is a humbling 3-4. They have yet to defeat a team with a winning record at home this season. It took overtime to defeat the 7-7 Texans.

It kind of defies any logical explanation really, but with an important home game with the Colts approaching Sunday, it wouldn’t surprise me if Jerry Jones doesn’t have a big blue horse shoe painted at midfield to make the Cowboys feel like it’s a road game. Or maybe call the Colts owner and see if he would like to play an additional home game this season?

The Cowboys last home game was a 33-10 beat down on Thanksgiving at the hands of the Eagles but in Philadelphia, it was a different story with Dallas winning 38-27. What a difference a change in venues made.

I drilled down in some stats to look for answers and discovered some interesting trends.

One thing that jumps out is that the Cowboys offense averages just 21.4 points a game at home but on the road they average 33 a game which is huge difference! But why there is such a difference isn’t so obvious. Stay with me.

Looking at their QB Tony Romo, his QB rating is very close to the same in away and home games. At home his rating is 111 and away it’s 112. Pretty much the same.

However Looking at RB DeMarco Murray who has played an enormous role in the Cowboys offense this season, does show a difference. In away games, Murray has carried the ball for 27 times a game but in home games he has just 23 carries per game. May not sound like a big difference but it is also interesting that Murray carries the ball for an average of 25 times a game but in the Cowboys four home losses, he only carried it 22, 19, 19, and 20 times. A solid 20% below his average carries.

As far as points allowed goes, the Cowboys defense appears very consistent no matter where they play. They have allowed 23.4 points a game away and 23.4 points a game at home.

However what is interesting is they have a total of 24 takeaways this season but most of those have come in away games. The Cowboys defense has only 9 takeaways in 7 home games but they have 15 takeaways in 7 away games. That represents a huge difference.

In fact in the Cowboys four home losses, the defense only managed a total of 3 turnovers. That means they produced 21 takeaways in the 10 games they have won. That’s about 2 per game when they win.

That may help explain the offense scoring 12 more points on the road. The defense taking the ball away would help set them up. Does the Dallas defense play more conservatively in home games? Do they rely more on the offense or come out playing flat at home but more fired up on the road?

Final Take:
For the Cowboys to pick up a very important home win against the Colts Sunday, I think they need to give the ball to Murray at least 25 times, his average. At this point, it appears Murray is going to try to play with his injured hand.

On defense, I’m convinced the Cowboys will have to come up with at least 2 or 3 turnovers to win the game. Remember the turnaround in the second meeting with the Eagles? The Dallas defense had 3 takeaways in that one compared to one in Dallas. The defense will need to play with more intensity and more aggressively than typical home games.

And the 12th man. The Cowboy fan base can help by bringing the noise when the Colts have the ball and creating a true home field advantage.


Sitting Romo May Be Smart Thing To Do in London

romo sack
The Dallas Cowboys are in London preparing for a game with the Jaguars Sunday.

The latest word is that Romo will attempt to practice Thursday and is still considering playing in the game Sunday. Owner Jerry Jones is still saying he expects Romo will be fine to play to any one that will listen to his nonsense or “rubbish” as the British would say. “I’m anticipating him playing, have no reason to think that he won’t, and this will be a nice little practice session for him out there today,” Jones said. “But my expectations are for him to play.”

A broken back sounds pretty serious to me but many experts (other than Jerry) indicate that it is not a real serious injury and many have played with a similar injury before. It would appear it is going to come down to how Romo feels in a couple days and if he thinks he can do it.

But shouldn’t the Cowboys be able to defeat the 1-8 Jaguars without their starting QB? I think most would agree that the best case scenario would be to sit Romo this game and win with their backup QB then take advantage of the bye week next week to rest allowing him to heal up for the challenging stretch run of the schedule ahead. Yes, I realize who our backup QB is.

Weeden played poorly against the Cardinals last week and I don’t get the feeling that there is much confidence in him from either the coaching staff or fans which is understandable. In that particular game, I thought the Cards came in with a very good game plan while the Cowboys on the other hand, didn’t have a solid plan to win with Weeden as their QB.

The Cards defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, a Bill Parcells under study, didn’t allow Murray to take over the game and was effective at defending the run holding Murray to less than 100 yards for the first time all season. I’m not going into great detail about that game here but let’s just sum it up to say, the Cardinals coaches coached the pants off the Cowboys coaches Sunday in my view.

We all know NFL seasons are long like a marathon not a sprint, which means a team will have to win a few without a starter every now and then. Just look at the Eagles last week after their starting QB Nick Foles went down with a shoulder injury during the game, Mark Sanchez stepped in and won the game going 15/22, 202 yards and 2 TDs. They even over came a couple picks too.

Yes the same Mark Sanchez the Jets were more than willing to unload to play a young, struggling Geno Smith and an over the hill Mike Vick at quarterback instead. If the Eagles can win a game against the Texans with Sanchez, then can’t Dallas win a game against the Jags with Weeden?

Pass protection for Weeden often could have been better last week but still even with time, Weeden appeared uncomfortable, unconfident, and had zero chemistry with WR Dez Bryant. In fact no Dallas WR had a single reception until well into the second half. Heck, it’s enough to make you want to roll Romo out there in a wheel chair in London and take your chances. And don’t put that past Jerry either! But is that really the smart thing to do?

A Little Monday Morning GM Diversion:
All of this should have been addressed in the off season by Jerry Jones himself. Kyle Orton had proven to be a capable back up for Romo, and he is currently having a good season in Buffalo by the way, in fact, he has a passer rating this season that is higher than Tony Romo’s. Did you realize that? But Orton had no interest in returning to Dallas. It seems he and Romo couldn’t get along. Not much detail has been provided as to why.

The Cowboys elected to not draft a QB including Johnny Football who was available in the first round. OK that’s fine don’t need the drama I get it. But Jerry knew Romo was coming off a back surgery so as GM, a good plan for a back up was required. A plan “B” needed in a big way when the starting QB has a weak back. Jerry’s answer was to sign a mediocre Brandon Weeden with a NFL track record that suggested no one should have had high expectations for him. A pedestrian career passer rating of 71. The same as Mark Sanchez incidentally.

As team GM, if Jerry didn’t think the coaches could manage to win a game every now and then with Weeden, then he shouldn’t have signed him to begin with. Weeden is surrounded by one of the better offensive lines in the NFL and one of the best wide receivers in Dez not to mention the NFL’s leading rusher, DeMarco Murray. It’s not like Weeden will be asked to win it on his own.

It would be wise to sit Romo this game and make sure he is ready to go down the important stretch run and it is time to find out if Weeden can help this team or not. A win against the Jags may help Weeden’s confidence which could pay off later in the season. Don’t assume Romo’s back troubles are over.

But if Weeden can’t get it done, then I guess Jerry can always call the Browns and see if they really want to keep that Johnny Football guy? Not like they are using him right now.

ESPN MONDAY NIGHT RAW in Dallas: Five Reasons Why Romo Should Have Just Tapped Out

Monday Night Football in Dallas gave us the kind of entertainment that usually would take place at a pro wrestling event on prime time TV. It was to be Jerry’s big night as the owner of the surprising 6-1 Cowboys as they took on a struggling Redskin team who were down to a 3rd string QB. A big stage to show case his team and what a great GM he had been in the off season.

ESPN even provided viewers the “Jerry Cam” a live feed of Jerry watching his Cowboys and fielding questions about the team. More attention for an owner than is typically provided and when it comes to Jerry who loves him some publicity, it was like pouring gasoline on the fire.

Then suddenly their Cowboy quarterback Romo went down with an injury to his back which had attempted to be repaired in the off season. Romo was clearly in a great deal of pain as he headed to the locker room where ESPN followed creating a frenzy by providing live updates on Romo and his back. Camera shots of Romo in the locker room were also provided as ESPN attempted to milk as much drama of this situation as possible. It was like “hey ESPN, WWE just texted and said you guys are going over the top on this one.”

Then Romo slowly begins the walk back to the sideline. Will he come back to lead his team to victory with a back that barely even lets him throw a pass? Will the doctors even allow him to return? Jerry was on this moment like an engrossed wrestling manager who is trying to boost the ratings. No surprise that Jerry, like a pro wrestling manager attempting to impact the outcome of a contest, is the one who made it known to the coach that Romo could play, as Garrett explained.  STORY

While Romo’s return made for compelling television, I was convinced Weeden offered the best chance to win and Romo was too injured to take that risk. This wasn’t scripted as Romo was not able to successfully return and miraculously lead them to a thrilling come from behind victory.

Five reasons why Romo should not have been allowed to return:

1. Romo was clearly not able to play any where near 100% after the injury. That made him unable to really help his team.

2. Even prior to his injury, Romo was playing poorly and having a bad game. Why would a hurt back improve any of that?

3. Weeden (the backup) had just led the offense to a TD on a scoring pass to TE Jason Witten. The offense had some momentum with Weeden as their QB at the time, as he led two scoring drives. I think he gave them the best chance to win at that moment considering all the circumstances.

4. Even if X-rays cleared Romo to return, it doesn’t make it the right decision for his long term health. By returning, Romo risked even more serious injury to his back. Romo is going to want to be able to get out in his yard and pass a football with his young son Hawkins, one day. There is a bigger picture than just considering if he is able to return to the game.

5.  Romo had been sacked five times in the game. Why put him out there to get number six when he clearly couldn’t scramble well at all?

We don’t know if the game would have had a different ending had Weeden been left to play QB. But I didn’t need to know that to know putting Romo in at the time with an injured back, was the wrong move for more reasons than just trying to get to a 7-1 record.

It appears the Cowboys maniacal owner/GM Jerry Jones was the one behind getting Romo to return as it made for “must see TV.” And it was Jones who once said, “We have not gone (playoffs), yet we’re the most popular TV show there is on television. We lead all teams in TV ratings. We lead, 24 of the last top 25 shows were NFL games, and any time your Cowboys play they’re up there at the top and leading.”

Sometimes it shouldn’t just be about the ratings. It should be about trying to win the game and most importantly, doing what is in the best interest of the player’s health long term.

Tony Romo Notices 12th Man Missing in Dallas

When Romo and the Cowboys offense broke the huddle for their first possession Sunday in their home stadium at AT&T, I noticed that it was very loud. Like what you would expect if it were a road game for the Cowboys. Visiting Texan fans showed up in force and made their presence heard. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo certainly noticed the noise from opposing fans.

Romo pointed out that they had to go with a silent count which is something that would be expected in a road game not in AT&T. “That was the first time I had to do that throughout the game at home,” Romo said. The 12th man refers to the home field advantage a football team can usually expect with noise from its fans but the 12th man has been missing in Dallas.

Romo went on to say, “That was every bit as loud as going to St. Louis or Tennessee.” “We need to understand that we lose a lot of our ability to do some things at the line of scrimmage that gives us big advantages, from my perspective. We have got to make sure going forward that we have a lot more percentage of Cowboy fans.”

Romo isn’t real pleased with the Cowboy fans performance Sunday and thinks the fans need to show up and help the home team have an advantage. But when it comes to these matters, I think the players have it backwards.

There are a plethora of reasons that may have contributed to why the Texan fans were about 50/50 in attendance as the Cowboys fans. It’s a huge stadium that offers an experience other than just football, purchasing season tickets is expensive, and let’s face it, the Cowboys have been pretty mediocre in recent years. Did you know that the stadium in Arlington, Texas is the only NFL stadium inaccessible via public transportation?

When Romo and the Cowboys go to Seattle next week, they will certainly experience what a difference the 12th man can make. The Seahawks enjoy a major home field advantage with crowd noise and it is nearly impossible for the visiting team to come out of there with a win. Sure Romo would like that in Dallas but what will it take to get there?

Since opening in 2009, the Cowboys record through the 2013 season at AT&T is 22-18. That represents a slight home field advantage. Things actually got off to a bad start when the Giants won the first regular season game in the stadium 33-31. Manning signed the locker room wall with “first win in new stadium”.

Despite the slight winning edge at home over the years, Romo talks like the Cowboys can’t be beat in the stadium when it’s full of the home team fans, “The place has been a tough place for other teams to come in and win when it gets going. I think the fans have been awesome this year, but I think we need to tighten up selling our tickets a little bit.”

But is that the answer? No visiting team fans allowed by controlling ticket availability? The Cowboys certainly enjoy a good fan following on the road at other stadiums I have noticed.

It’s a little like which came first, the chicken or the egg? Bring the fans and then we will win or win and the fans will come? I say it’s the latter.

It comes down to winning and being relevant in the post season which Dallas simply hasn’t done in a long time. Instead of finishing 8-8 and missing the playoffs each season, win those critical play in games, make a run deep into the playoffs, and then see if things don’t get pretty darn loud in AT&T for the Cowboys.

Visiting fans will not want to make the trip and spend the money to watch their team lose. The fact that Houston fans showed up in such large numbers tells me they felt good about their chances of beating Dallas in their big stadium. Defeating the Texans in overtime Sunday to go 4-1 is a good start to getting back a home field advantage in AT&T.

NFL ticket prices aren’t cheap these days and fans don’t owe the players anything when it comes to support or loyalty. NFL teams have been known to pack up and move over night to another city while star players jump to rival teams all the time for more money. Support of fans is earned and there is no better way to earn it than winning on the field consistently.

In the past, the Cowboys were referred to as “America’s Team” because of the incredible success they experienced on the field. The Cowboys home stadium filled with opposing fans Sunday was because of a lack of success in recent seasons.

The NFL: Five Things We learned in week 2.

ap_roger_goodell_mt_140911_16x9_9921. The Cowboys can win the less Romo throws the ball. The Cowboys figured out how they can win a game. a) Don’t let Romo pass much. b) keep the defense off the field. When Romo just hands the ball to Murray, and the Cowboys dominate time of possession, suddenly their defense isn’t so bad and Romo stays out of trouble. .Against the Titans, the Cowboys rushed for over 200 yards and held the ball for 2/3 of the game. Now that’s the formula they won with back in the day.

2. The Redskins offense is much more effective with Kirk Cousins at QB instead of RG3 and out. It took RG going out with an ankle injury early in the game Sunday for the Redskin leaders to figure out that their best chance to win is with Cousins running the offense. Or maybe they don’t want to admit they invested too much into RG. Last week a total of 6 points with RG at QB and this week 41 points with Cousins. Pretty emphatic I would say. As Cowboy fans, let’s just hope for a speedy recovery for RG and a return to the bench for Cousins.

3. The New Orleans “Possums” get killed on the road. So far the Saints are 0-2 on the road and last season wasn’t much better as they were 3-5 away while going 8-0 at home. Let’s just go ahead and change it to the N.O. Possums since, (all together now) “they get killed on the road”.

4. These Falcons can’t fly out doors. By losing at the Bengals, the Falcons have lost seven games in a row played in outdoor stadiums. Plans for their new stadium allow for the top to open but they may want to consider keeping it closed all the time.

5. Video evidence. There is a saying in business that, “nothing is more devastating to an opinion than a number”. For the NFL I would say we found out nothing is more devastating to an opinion than a video. As in the Ray Rice in the elevator video, that dominated NFL news this week and caused the shady NFL commissioner to do a 180 on his opinion. It made Goodell look bad or maybe he made himself look bad by evidently conducting a drive by investigation to keep a star player on field as much as possible.

Anyone else think the main stream news has become like TMZ and TMZ has become the news?

On to week 3!

Time For Tony Romo To Refer To Parcell’s “11 Quarterback Commandments”

romo sackedWe all saw it Sunday and it was an ugly performance from Romo. Even the most avid Romo supporters who often defend and protect the Dallas Cowboy QB, are pointing the finger at him after this game. His three interceptions and poor decisions hurt the team and Garrett said it wasn’t because he was rusty either. Basically the coach said he just stunk up the joint or as close to that as you will ever hear an imperturbable Garrett say. PFT STORY

I’ve been quite critical of Romo’s play for the last couple years and in the preseason, I blogged of my observations of weaker throws and I just never bought into “Romo is all good to go” which Jerry Jones and the gang were selling. But kicking him now would be too easy.

After a poor performance in any sport, I’m a firm believer in getting back to the basics. It’s the most effective way to climb out of the hole he finds himself in currently.

HOF Coach of Romo:
Coach Bill Parcells is a Hall of Fame Super Bowl winning coach who was Romo’s coach as an undrafted rookie QB in 2003. It was Parcell’s first year as coach of the Cowboys. Prior to 2003, the Cowboys had three straight 5-11 seasons but in his first year, Parcells led Dallas to the playoffs. And he led them to the playoffs with Quincy Carter as their QB. Let that sink in! An automatic qualifier for the HOF in my opinion.

In 2004 Carter was released due to substance abuse. Parcells had this interesting comment about Carter,
“He was smart. He understood it. But I just couldn’t save his ass. I really couldn’t. “You just didn’t have the time. There he is, he got his team in the playoffs, he’s the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, he’s playing good, he’s improving, he can get out of trouble, he’s pretty smart, he can make almost every throw — and it’s just, some people just can’t fight the pressure to succeed. They just can’t fight it. It’s too much on them once the bar gets up a little bit. It’s too much. I don’t know all the problems or the demons exactly, but that’s what eventually took him down.”

Carter’s release helped open the door for a young gunslinger, named Tony Romo. Could he “fight the pressure to succeed?”

11 Commandments from Bill Parcell’s Bible of football:
Coach Parcells had a list of 11 quarterback commandments and evidently Romo keeps this list in his locker. Parcells gave the list to Romo prior to a MNF game in 2007 with the Bills, that will be remembered as a classic. In that game Romo threw five INTs and had a fumble but still led Dallas to an incredible 25-24 victory.

Tony, it may be time to get that list out and highlight a couple of them. COMPLETE LIST

Here are a few I recommend for Romo’s consideration.
1. Ignore other opinions – Press or TV, agents or advisors, family or wives, friends or relatives, fans or hangers on – ignore them on matters of football, they don’t know what’s happening here.

DTR Comment: This week everyone and their brother will have advice and criticism. The same people who told you how great you are when it was going good. May just want to turn off Sportscenter and sink yourself into focusing and preparing for the next game.

6. Be the same guy every day – in condition. Preparing to lead. Studying your plan. A coach can’t prepare you for every eventuality. Prepare yourself and remember, impulse decisions usually equal mistakes.

DTR Comment: I would add even with a huge contract be humble and remember what the heck got you here. And it wasn’t trying to be a hero. Football is the ultimate team game so trust your teammates and watch the impulse decisions.

If your back is OK like you say, then show up for EVERY practice and lead your teammates. If he isn’t able to practice, then someone else should start the game. No more special treatment.

9. Get your team in the end zone – passing stats and TD passes are not how you’re going to be judged. Your job is to get your team in the end zone and that is how you will be judged.

DTR Comment: Evidently Parcells came up with this one before fantasy football became so popular. When I read this one, I thought of the play Sunday where Dallas had a 2nd and 1 at the two and Romo decided to check out of the run to Murray into a pass play which resulted in a sack. The team had to settle for 3 points when they were in excellent position to tie the game at 7. Even if there are 11 defenders lined up in the hole, just give the ball to Murray. Trust your highly rated offensive line and get in the endzone. DON’T TRY TO BE A HERO.

I also think of the critical red zone interception when Romo appeared to be looking for his BFF Jason Witten when Harris was obviously wide open for a TD in the endzone. Don’t over think it, hit the open guy and score.

And last but certainly not least,
11. Don’t be a celebrity QB – we don’t need any of those. We need battlefield commanders that are willing to fight it out, every day, every week and every season and lead their team to win after win after win.

DTR Comment: I love this one from Parcells. In the off season I was critical of Romo attending high profile sporting events with Coach Garrett. Funny, it’s hard to picture Coach Parcells hanging with his QB at basketball games isn’t it?

The photo of Romo in the best seats at AT&T hanging out with owner Jerry Jones and a couple former presidents gives the impression this Cowboy QB has won super bowls and reached the highest point in his sport. But he hasn’t even been in the playoffs in recent years.

Tony-Romo-HeatAlso photos with high profile athletes (LeBron James) make Romo just another Johnny Football out there soaking up his five minutes of fame. See, rolling with champions doesn’t make you one it just makes you a groupie.

It all needs to stop because as the QB, you are leading guys into battle and they need a guy like them not a Prima Donna, lime light seeking, Kardashian.

Let’s keep it real Romo, you aren’t a super bowl winning HOF quarterback yet, so to quote the late Casey Kasem, “keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.” Time spent at all the photo opportunity events is time you could spend getting better.

DTR Final Snap:
How Romo responds next week remains to be seen but it’s time to get that commandment list out and get back to football basics. It was Parcells that sagely warned:
“Success is never final, but failure can be.”

A Look Back at The Cowboys/49ers OT Classic in 2011: And Sunday’s Matchup

jesse-holley-203x300A look back the last time these two teams met back in September 2011 that provided an exciting game that was decided in overtime. And a comparison to the matchup to be played on Sunday the first game of their season.

In 2011, QB Tony Romo hit wide receiver Jesse Holley for the winning score in overtime. Jesse Holley was the survivor of Michael “Play Maker” Irvin’s reality show “4th and long” and that’s how he got an opportunity with the team after playing football and basketball at UNC. Holley was a member of the basketball team that won the National Championship in 2005. Prior to appearing on “4th and Long” Holley was selling cell phones back in NC.

In OT, Dallas faked a run to the right and Romo pulled up and hit a wide open Holley who had slipped behind the defense completely undetected. He was chased down and tackled at the one setting up the game winning field goal 27-24.

Romo Gutsy Perfromance:
It had been a 49er type game that was plenty physical in fact Romo was hit by CB Carlos Rogers after a pass that cracked Romo’s ribs and even punctured his lung. After making a few painful pass attempts that looked off target, Romo left the game and backup QB Jon Kitna took over eventually throwing two interceptions.

In a display of courage, Romo returned to the game with Dallas trailing by 14 points. As far as I’m concerned, this was the most gutsy performance in Romo’s career and ranks high among all NFL QB gutsy performances for that matter.

He led Dallas back to a win including that strike to Holley. Romo passed for 345 yards and two TDs that day and that was after throwing a late interception the previous week against the Jets that resulted in a loss. It is the familiar roller coaster ride that Cowboy fans experience with Romo as QB. He makes a late game blunder one week and then provides the winning pass the next.

Romo 2014:
Romo’s ribs are OK now, but this time Romo faces the 49ers after back surgery so another gutsy performance will no doubt be required to survive 4 quarters against the 49er defense. In preseason, Romo has looked fine passing for the most part but perhaps not as mobile as fans are use to seeing. The highly regarded offensive line will need to be on top of their game. Romo took some hits with 3 sacks against the Dolphins and while he missed some practice, he appears ready to go.

WR Jesse Holley No Longer in NFL:
In 2011, WR Dez Bryant missed the game with injury and Miles had gone out with a hamstring injury (sound familiar?) which provided Holley an opportunity for heroics. Austin injured his hamstring on an odd play call that had him line up in the backfield and run a toss sweep. Holley was a solid special teams contributor for Dallas who made a big play when his team needed him.

2014: With Holley gone, does Dallas have a guy who can make a big play Sunday? Yes I believe Dwayne Harris can make a game changing play on kick returns and/or as a backup wide receiver. He is the type that may be overlooked but comes up big in the game Sunday.

WR Miles Austin now on Browns Roster:
In 2011, Holley may have had the big catch but it was Miles Austin who had a HUGE game against the 49ers. He scored three TDs and caught a total of 9 passes for 143 yards. Most of the damage came with Austin lined up as the slot receiver.

2014: Austin moved on to Cleveland so does Dallas have a receiving threat in the slot on their roster? Yes I think Cole Beasley can be difference maker for Dallas coming out of the slot. While matching Austin’s performance will be challenging, I do think Beasley who will start for the first time this season, could be a player that finds the open spots in the secondary on Sunday. Defenses will game plan for a beast like Dez if they are wise, but it could be Beasley that benefits from that attention.

Dallas with Five Sacks in 2011:
In 2011 against the 49ers, the Dallas defense managed to sack QB Alex Smith five times. Ware and Hatcher had two sacks each and Ratliff had one. All three of those guys are absent from the Cowboys roster in 2014.

2014: With those three defensive linemen gone, does Dallas have guys who can step up and fill their shoes? This is an area of major concern because answers on the defensive line have yet to emerge. They signed DT Henry Melton in the off season and hope he can replace a guy like Hatcher. At DE, Dallas has had to scramble to find healthy bodies. Selvie is injured and Lawrence will be out for several weeks.

Alex Smith wasn’t much of a threat to run for a first down in 2011, but in 2014 QB Kolin Kaepernick has the ability to beat you when he runs. He provides an even bigger challenge for a defense that struggled last season and has a lot of question marks. On Sunday, Dallas will need a defensive lineman or two to step up and make a play.

Dallas goes into the game Sunday with a defensive line that pales in comparison to that line in 2011 that sacked Smith five times.

Final Wrap:
Dallas has offensive weapons that can keep them in the game with a tough 49er defense. Similar to 2011, the Cowboys will need another gutsy performance from Romo and some new faces will need to step up.

While the Dallas defense faces a 49er offense that has struggled some recently, they come into the game with enormous question marks on their defense particularly on the defensive line. I think they must come up with a couple turnovers to hang in this game to have a chance for another exciting finish like in 2011. And perhaps a heroic play from an obscure player like Holley provided.