Cowboys - Dolphins Preview

The Cowboys (8-3), and first year coach Bill Parcells, come into their annual Thanksgiving Day game in a first place tie with the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East after defeating Carolina Sunday, 24-20.

What: Miami Dolphins at Dallas Cowboys
Where: Texas Stadium - Irving, Texas
When: Thursday, November 27, 2003 - 3:05 CST
Air: CBS (KTVT - Ch. 11)

SERIES NOTES: Miami leads all-time series 6-4.

LAST MEETING: November 25, 1999 at Texas Stadium. Result: Dallas 20 Miami 0.

GAME NOTES:
The Cowboys (8-3), and first year coach Bill Parcells, come into their annual Thanksgiving Day game in a first place tie with the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East after defeating Carolina Sunday, 24-20. In that contest, the Cowboys defense held QB Jake Delhomme and company to 244 total yards, 175 of which came in the air. Running back Stephen Davis was shut down completely, carrying the ball 26 times for only 59 yards (2.3 YPC).

Meanwhile, the Dolphins (7-4) are coming off a critical come-from-behind victory against the Washington Redskins Sunday night to keep their playoff hopes alive in the AFC. Star running back Ricky Williams rushed for 107 yards on 24 carries (4.7 YPC), while QB Brian Griese was held to 8-of-13 passing for 133 yards.

Dallas (5-1, home) enters the game having won five straight at home, including a 24-20 victory over the Panthers, a 10-6 win over Buffalo, a 21-14 win over the Redskins, a 23-21 victory over the Eagles, and a 24-7 victory over Arizona. Miami (4-1) enters the game having lost only once away from Pro Player Stadium this year, back on November 9 in Nashville to the Tennessee Titans, 31-9.

INJURIES: Miami: QB - Jay Fielder (Knee - probable)
DE - Jason Taylor (Knee - probable)
WR - Derrius Thompson (Oblique - probable)
G - Todd Perry (Elbow - probable)
G - Jamie Nails (Ankle - questionable)
LB - Zach Thomas (Concussion - questionable)
DT - Larry Chester (quadricep - questionable)
*TE - Ed Perry (Left knee)
*LB - Eddie Moore (Left foot)
*WR - Orande Gadsden
*OT - Mark Dixon (Foot)
*S - Trent Gamble (Right knee)
*WR - Sam Simmons (Left ankle)
*WR - J.R. Tolver (Right knee)

Dallas:

RT - Kurt Vollers (Back strain - questionable)
*C - Gennaro DiNapoli (Ankle)
*C - Bill Conaty
*C - Al Johnson
*CB - Donald Mitchell

*Indicates player on Injured Reserve.

INJURY NOTES: With RT Kurt Vollers expected to miss Thursday's game, the Cowboys are contemplating going with rookie OL Torrin Tucker.

KEY MATCH-UPS:
Ricky Williams vs. Dat Nguyen - This will be Ricky Williams' first trip back to Texas since the New Orleans Saints drafted him in ‘99. A former college rivals of Williams', Dat Nguyen of Texas A&M, will be awaiting him in the Lonestar state. In Williams' final game against A&M in 1998, he broke the NCAA's all-time rushing record, but did not go up against Nguyen, one of the nation's top linebackers, due to an injury suffered by Nguyen. Nguyen leads Cowboy tacklers with 93 on the season, an average of 8.5 per game.

KEYS TO SUCCESS: Miami is 22nd in the NFL in pass defense, averaging 215.2 yards in the air per game. With that in mind, Quincy Carter needs to have another big day throwing for the Cowboys, just as he did Sunday against the Panthers. The Cowboys cannot allow Ricky Williams to have a big day. Williams is sixth in the AFC in rushing, averaging 82.6 yards per game, and will need nothing less in order for the Dolphins to be successful against the Cowboys Thursday. Thankfully, the matchup bodes well for Dallas coming into this game. The Cowboys have the league's best overall defense and are No. 2 in run defense, holding teams to just 82 yards per game.

The Cowboys are a perfect 7-0 when rushing the ball at least 30 times a game this season, but just 1-3 when they do not. Troy Hambrick will once again get the majority of the carries against the Dolphins' defense – which ranks fourth in the NFL in run defense - but look for the Cowboys to use Aveion Cason, who broke a 16-yard touchdown in last Sunday's game on a pitch from Anderson, on occasion.

From a defensive standpoint, the Cowboys will have the same approach as last week when they ran into the run-heavy Panthers and Stephen Davis. Only this time, it's Williams they must contain.

TIDBITS: Miami is one of only three teams that have been in the league for more than eight seasons to have a winning record against the Cowboys. The other three are Cleveland, Oakland, and San Francisco. Both the Cowboys and Dolphins will be wearing throwback uniforms for Thursday's game. The Cowboys will again wear an re-creation of their traditional double-star jerseys worn from 1960-66, and again in 1994. The jersey features a blue torso with white numerals and sleeves highlighted by a bold white star atop each shoulder, while Miami will be wearing uniforms from the 1973 season. It will mark the third year in a row the Cowboys will have worn throwback uniforms on Thanksgiving Day.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "Playing on a national holiday like that and being on national television, you want your team to perform well," said Cowboys coach Bill Parcells. "I do have a lot of things to be thankful for, I really do. And I'm grateful for those. But right now, it's just Miami. I'm sorry."

FINAL PREDICTION: Dallas 20, Miami 16.

**Have a question or comment for CowboySteve? E-mail him at steveh@theinsiders.com.

CowboysHQ Top Stories