Insight from the Real Experts: KC vs. Dallas

It is time again for our weekly conversation with the real experts of the Chiefs upcoming opponent, the fan who follows the team day in and day out. The Chiefs continue their run through the NFL's toughest closing schedule this week by traveling to Dallas to take on the Dallas Cowboys.

The Chiefs successfully completed the second round of their six week season ending gauntlet by defeating one of their AFC West rivals, the Denver Broncos 31-27. The challenge gets a bit tougher this week because the Chiefs are on the road against a playoff contender. The Cowboys enter the game 7-5 and on a two game losing streak. The Chiefs are 8-4 and on a three game winning streak. This game has huge playoff implications for both teams.

This week we visit with 3 fans of the Dallas Cowboys. Our panel consists of the following: • Robert Gadd, 56 years old and retired from the Army after 23 years of service, now a postal worker, from Corpus Christi, TX; a Cowboys fan since the Cowboys were first brought into the NFL, with Eddie LeBarron and Don Perkins starting the foundation of the organization...through Bob Lilly on to the present.
• Kevin Trezise, 37 year-old vendor, from Conway, Arkansas, a lifelong Cowboys fan.
• Hank Masters, a member of the US Marine Corp, from Pearl Harbor, HI, a Cowboys fan for 24 years.

Our panel of Cowboys fans believes their strong defense will be able to reduce the productivity of the Chiefs this week. However, they are concerned about the ability of their offensive line to provide running lanes and pass protection for the Dallas offense to put points on the board.

Question: What aspect of the Cowboys attack do the Chiefs not have an answer for?

Answer: "The Cowboy's secondary is a very effective unit. It does give up some yardage through the air, but it tends to be very stingy each and every game. If Anthony Henry returns for this game, he will be the link that brings this unit back into serious consideration also in the run support aspects. If this group is able to shut down most of the gain moving ability of the Chiefs, it will serve to make them much more one dimensional towards the run. When a team becomes one dimensional towards the run against this defense, it usually is effective in shutting down that run. Against some pretty top of the line runners (Alexander, Tomlinson, Portis, Tiki Barber, and Westbrook) it has been able to limit them to under well under 100 yards and stymie that part of an offense." – Robert Gadd

"While I think KC can run the ball on Dallas, they will find that there will not be any long runs and LJ will take a beating. He may not be the 4th quarter weapon that he has been in some games to this point because the D-line will keep fresh bodies in there to pound on him all day long." – Kevin Trezise

"Our Defense is pretty solid. I think Larry Johnson will have hard time running on Cowboys, and secondary is pretty good as well." – Hank Masters

Analysis: Dallas is ranked sixth in total defense, eighth in pass defense and tenth in rush defense. Make no mistake they are a good, fast and physical defense. However, the Chiefs offense is just hitting its stride. The Chiefs offense ranks second in total offense, ninth in passing and fourth in rushing. Larry Johnson has started only five games this season and played approximately one third of the downs in the other seven games. Amazingly, he has over 1100 yards rushing, has rushed for over 100 yards in each of his starts and is averaging 5.0 yards per carry (third in the NFL).

The key for the Chiefs offense is balance and execution. The balance provided between the run and the pass enables the Chiefs to play action pass early and often, while also moving the chains via the run. The Chiefs need to be themselves. If they can stay balance they should be able to move the ball and put some points on the board, even against a good defense like Dallas. The ability to maintain that balance rests in the hands of the big guys up front (Roaf, Waters, Wiegmann, Shields and Welbourne).

Question: What concern do you as a Cowboys ' fan have as you look at the Chiefs?

Answer: "Unfortunately Cowboys O-Line has been exposed the last few games. Unless we find away to keep Bledsoe protected we will not be able to score much." – Hank Masters

Question: What is the area on the Cowboys team that worries you the most and why?

Answer: "The offensive line is where the whole game will boil down to in final analysis. The offensive tackles are really not very good and present a ton of logistical nightmares for the offensive coordinator. Most teams are able to thwart much of the effectiveness of the offensive line by attacking the tackles and blitzing or stacking the middle of the offensive line. A steady diet of attacking actions often throw off the running game, and if it is intense enough...the passing game of Drew Bledsoe also. The passing of Drew Bledsoe has been on the decline somewhat over the past three games, with his accuracy keeping the team from being really dimensional and changing some of the momentum that has caused the Cowboys to have to come from behind in each of these games." – Robert Gadd

Analysis: I'm inclined to agree with Mr. Gadd. The battle of the trenches will be the deciding factor in this game. The Cowboys have had trouble protecting Bledsoe in recent weeks and Bledsoe is not a very mobile QB. The Chiefs are an attacking defense and will need to attack the Cowboys backfield to keep Bledsoe from getting comfortable and keep Julius Jones from getting into a rushing rhythm. It will help greatly if the front four rotations of Allen, Dalton, Browning, Hicks, Hall, Sims and Siavii can get penetration into the backfield. This will allow Defensive Coordinator Gunther Cunningham's blitz packages to be even more effective.

Conclusion: The must win games continue for Kansas City this week. With the Chiefs win over Denver last week and the Pittsburgh Steelers home loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Chiefs now control their own destiny in terms of the playoffs. However, that destiny follows a very difficult path. Dallas is a very solid team, with a tremendous defense, who is difficult to beat at home.

In contrast the Chiefs are playing their best football of the year and need to continue to ascend. The offensive and defensive lines hold the key as to whether or not this team can go on the road and win the equivalent of a playoff game.

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