The media has already pronounced the season over, and bandwagon fans are already looking forward to the first Mavericks game. Have you people forgotten that the Cowboys have only played one game? Sure it was a horrible, and somewhat unexpected start, but the life as we know it, is not yet over.
The Cowboys still have a legitimate chance to do great things this season, and it all starts this weekend with their match up against the Tennessee Titans. Here are my 5 keys to a Cowboys victory:
Some Inspiration Please
One of biggest problems I have with last week's effort in Houston is that the team as a whole did not appear to be focused on the task at hand, especially on offense. The Texans wanted that game more and anybody watching the game could have told you so after David Carr and company stuffed a touchdown down the Cowboys' throat on their opening drive.
This week, it has to be the Cowboys that come out with that same fire and intensity. The Titans come into this game with a lot of confidence after rallying from a 14-point halftime deficit to beat the Philadelphia Eagles. A quick score, a big turnover, or a big play on special teams early in the game will go a long way in keeping this one close.
Regardless, the Cowboys have to come out of the gates like their season is on the line, because quite frankly, it is.
Stop the Big Play
The coaching staff was flat out disgusted with Bryant Westbrook's performance against Houston, and rightfully so. Westbrook was called for a 43-yard pass interference on the game's first play and he was also penalized for illegal contact late in the 4th quarter, negating a sack and giving the Texans an automatic first down. On the very next play, David Carr completed a 65-yard touchdown pass to Corey Bradford.
"I had two crucial mistakes in the Houston game, and I have to live with that," Westbrook said this earlier this week. "But I'm a man, and I know my faults. Every opportunity I get out there, I have to make my play." While Westbrook is talking a good game, his time may have already passed.
Simply put, Duane Hawthorne will have every opportunity to do something special this week. He'll replace Westbrook on passing downs in the hopes of providing better one-on-one coverage in the secondary. While Mario Edwards appears to have answered one of the Cowboys' question marks entering the season, no one has stepped up on the other side. Could Hawthorne be the guy? If so, he'll have to be a big factor in keeping the explosive Titans' offense in check.
Quincy, Quincy, Quincy
There's really no other way to say it. Quincy Carter has to play better Sunday if the Cowboys are going to have a chance. Carter opened the season by completing 13-of-30 passes for just 131 yards and an interception. He finished as the lowest rated passer in the National Football League through the first week of the season. Improvement in all areas of his game are in order but he'll need a serious step up in his decision making and his overall accuracy if this offense is going to do anything.
Carter will likely see a lot of man-to-man coverage from the Titans' secondary Sunday afternoon, which means he'll have the opportunity to take his chances with the deep ball. A big connection with Joey Galloway could go a long way in restoring some confidence to this offense.
Heavy Dose of Glover
La'Roi Glover had a strong start in his debut in the silver in blue as he finished his night in Houston with 5 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and an interception. He'll need a repeat performance this weekend if the Cowboys are going to have a chance to stop Steve McNair, Eddie George, and company.
RB Eddie George will obviously be the focal point of the Cowboys' defensive gameplan. "We've got to get the ball out of his hands and you've got to get to him early on or he'll just keep running over you," said Glover.
"The key is to attack him before he's attacking you. You have to stop his momentum because if we keep letting him get the ball, he'll start pounding on you as much as you're trying to pound on him."
Unfortunately, George has a history of bouncing back after big games. Last week he ran for 42 yards on 18 carries in the Titans' comeback win.
Special Teams Should be Special
The special teams were anything but special last week as Billy Cundiff made only one of two field goals in his NFL debut and Ken-Yon Rambo averaged only 1.4 yards on three punt returns. That simply doesn't cut it. Fortunately, the return of Reggie Swinton should provide a much needed spark this weekend against the Titans. Swinton was one of the top return men in the NFL last season and his quickness and elusiveness gives the Cowboys an edge in the return game.
5 Keys to Beating the Titans
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