'Boys - Bears Preview & Prediction

The Cowboys must stop the run and force Bears quarterback Jay Cutler into turnovers.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
GAMEDATE: 9/19/10
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: FOX (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Cowboys must stop the run and force Bears quarterback Jay Cutler into turnovers. He will throw it to the other team when pressured. Offensively, they must stick to the run and finish drives. That means cutting down on penalties that have killed drives. The Cowboys had five drives of seven plays or more against the Redskins but scored only one touchdown on a short-field drive of six plays.

FAST FACTS: Tony Romo has now started 56 games and owns a 38-18 record as a starter. He has completed 1,193 of 1,880 passes for 15,065 yards, 105 touchdowns and 52 interceptions in those starts. ... Jay Cutler has a 16-0 record when he has a passer rating of 100 or better. It's the best record percentage-wise in the NFL.

INSIDE THE BEARS CAMP: The Cowboys have more than their share of offensive weapons - three talented running backs, three big-play wide receivers and six-time Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten -- at the command of quarterback Tony Romo.

But the Cowboys have been susceptible up front, along an offensive line that has had to deal with injuries and inconsistency. Left guard Kyle Kosier suffered a sprained knee in the preseason and has been rushed back into the starting lineup, although he isn't yet 100 percent. Right tackle Marc Colombo, the Bears' first-round draft choice in 2002, had knee surgery during training camp to remove loose cartilage. He did not play in the season opener but is expected to start against his old team.

Colombo is being hurried back because his replacement, Alex Barron, was called for three holding penalties in the final 31 minutes of the season opener, a 13-7 loss to the Redskins. The last infraction negated an apparent game-winning TD pass with three seconds remaining.

Winning that battle may be the Bears' best chance to upset the 9-point favorite Cowboys. "You're always trying to win that battle up front with our defensive line against their offensive line," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "From what I'm told they're getting their guys back this week. But we need to win that battle up front."

Northern Illinois' Doug Free, a fourth-year player, got his first-ever NFL start at left tackle last week and will be facing Bears right end Julius Peppers. But the Bears aren't looking at the Cowboys' O-line as a weakness.

"I don't know if you can just pinpoint the offensive line off of one game," nose tackle Anthony Adams said. "It was their first game. It's probably some of the same stuff that they're saying about us up front defensively, as well as offensively."

When it's at full strength, the Cowboys' front wall is gigantic and formidable.

"They've got a big offensive line," Adams said. "They're huge up front, and we're going to have our work cut out for us."

Right guard Leonard Davis is 6-foot-6 and 355 pounds. Center Andre Gurode is 6-4 and 318 pounds. Colombo is 6-8 and 320, and Free is 6-6, 320. Kosier is the runt of the litter at 6-5 and 309 pounds. He's the only Cowboys starting offensive lineman who's lighter than the Bears' two heaviest starters, tackles Frank Omiyale and Chris Williams, who both weigh 315.

If Dallas' offensive line is able to keep the Bears' away from Romo long enough for him to utilize all his passing-game options at Cowboys Stadium, it will be a long day for the visitors, especially for the defensive backs.

"I'm not too much worried about it," Bears cornerback Charles Tillman said. "I'm confident in our front four. Coach (Rod) Marinelli and (defensive line coach Eric Washington) do a good job of keeping those guys with the basic fundamentals, a level rush and things like that. So, as far as covering guys a little bit longer, I think 'Pep' and Tommie (Harris) and those guys are going to get after Romo pretty good. I think they'll make my job a lot easier."

INSIDE THE COWBOYS CAMP: Team owner Jerry Jones made it clear that there is no confusion in the team's hierarchy when it comes to coach Wade Phillips and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.

He said Phillips has ultimate veto power over any play Garrett calls.

"He has more than that," Jones said. "He certainly does rely and depend and delegate to Jason regarding the offensive play calling. Let's make that real (clear). Wade can call anything he wants to out there, or stop any call."

This became an issue in the wake of the Cowboys' disappointing season-opening 13-7 loss to Washington when a costly coaching decision late in the first half led directly to a Redskins touchdown.

With four seconds left in the half and the Cowboys backed up to their 36 after a holding penalty, Garrett did not nix the Hail Mary pass he had called before the penalty. Phillips didn't step in to kill the play, either.

Phillips and Garrett have both taken responsibility for the disaster that ensued. Tony Romo threw a desperation pass in the flat to running back Tashard Choice, who fumbled. Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall picked up the fumble and returned 36 yards for a touchdown.

"I think that it was pretty clear that we should have taken a knee," Jones said. "That's clear. Jason gave his reason for calling the play. That was a mistake. And so, I don't know if you can call it confusion as much as making a mistake. Certainly, Wade has the ability at any time to stop the music and make the call if he wants to make the call. We all logically know the consequences of that. That didn't happen, so it's what it is. I'm not concerned about it being some type of pattern."

Jones said Phillips came up to him after the game and said he should have overruled the call from Garrett, who as offensive coordinator is the play caller.

Jones still believes the Cowboys can bounce back and have a good season starting with the Bears on Sunday in the home opener.

He also remains confident in the head coach-offensive coordinator relationship of Phillips and Garrett despite their trouble in the waning moments of the first half.

BEARS PERSONNEL NEWS: LB Lance Briggs (ankle) was not limited at practice and he will play Sunday barring any setbacks.

--RB Matt Forte (knee) was a full participant at Thursday's practice after being limited on Wednesday.

--WR Devin Aromashodu, who led the wideouts with five catches and 71 yards last week, was a full participant in practice Thursday after being limited on Wednesday.

--LB Nick Roach (hamstring) was limited at Thursday's practice and isn't expected to play on Sunday.

--LB Rod Wilson, who was signed as a free agent Wednesday night after Hunter Hillenmeyer was placed on injured reserve with a concussion, will probably be asked to contribute on special teams this week. Hillenmeyer was a four-phase player on special teams.

COWBOYS PERSONNEL NEWS: K David Buehler who missed a 34-yarder against the Redskins in his first ever attempt in the NFL, has caused the Cowboys some concern. Yet the Cowboys continue to be patient with the unproven kicker and have not even thought about an alternative.

"The promise of what he can do for us and the fact we've got (kickers coach Chris) Boniol and (special teams coach) Joe (Decamillis) and they're so much on the page with him and like his fundamentals, the way he strikes the ball, his makeup, everything about him," owner Jerry Jones said. "When I think of all of that, I'd say there is a lot of rope."

--FB Deon Anderson is out two to four weeks after undergoing surgery to repair torn meniscus in his left knee. Chris Gronkowski will start in his place.

--LB DeMarcus Ware was limited in practice on Thursday with a concussion, but he is expected to play against the Bears on Sunday.

--C Marc Colombo and G Kyle Kosier practiced again Thursday without incident. Both said they felt good and will make their season debuts against the Bears. Coach Wade Phillips said backups Alex Barron and Montre Holland will play against the Bears as the Cowboys will continue to be cautious and not try to overload Colombo and Kosier in their first game back.

PREDICTION: Cowboys 28-14


CowboysHQ Top Stories