Cowboys dare the Packers to blitz

Tony Romo and Co. have carved up two biltz-heavy defenses. But can the Packers afford to sit back and be dissected, like they were last season?

With Pro Bowl talent at every skill position on offense, the Dallas Cowboys' opponents have elected to force the issue rather than being picked apart by quarterback Tony Romo.

To say the least, that approach has failed miserably.

Romo hasn't been sacked while ranking third in the NFL with 632 passing yards. The Cowboys boast the league's second-ranked offense with 433.5 yards per game and are fourth with 34.5 points per game.

Clearly, opponents are dying by the blitz rather than living off of it.

"Well, we look for everybody to blitz, but the two teams that have tried to blitz us have, it looked like they played better when they tried not to blitz," Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said in a conference call with reporters at Lambeau Field on Wednesday. "We hurt them in the blitz, both teams we played. That's part of what you have to be able to do offensively."

The Green Bay Packers will have to take that into account as they prepare for Sunday night's showdown against Dallas at Lambeau Field.

The Packers failed miserably to pressure Romo with their base defense in last year's matchup at Dallas. Romo wasn't sacked, and with Charles Woodson out of the lineup, defensive coordinator Bob Sanders didn't feel he could blitz. The Cowboys scored on their first five possessions en route to a 37-27 win.

No doubt, having pass-rushing defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and Woodson available this time will help. KGB gives the base package a chance to pressure Romo, while having Woodson allows Sanders the freedom to be more aggressive.

"I don't see that it's been a major emphasis" in the first two games, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said of blitzing. "I think it's important when you blitz the reason why you're blitzing and is it effective. I think we definitely have the personnel to be creative with our blitzes. We haven't been a big exotic blitz team here in the past, so I'm pleased with the amount of pressure that we do get on the quarterback when we decide."

Still, if Eagles defensive guru Jimmy Johnson and his renowned blitz packages can't get to Romo — the Cowboys rang up 41 points against Philadelphia on Monday — it begs the question of whether the Packers can get to Romo before Romo gets to Green Bay's defense.

Still, Romo and Phillips expect the Packers to blitz more than they've shown in the first two games or in last year's matchup.

"I suspect that, they haven't done a lot of exotic stuff, but I suspect we're going to see a little bit different in that sense this week than what they've shown on tape," Romo said in his own conference call on Wednesday. "I suspect we'll see a few different looks, especially on third down some exotic blitzes."

Romo went on to practically dare the Packers to come after him, knowing he's got Terrell Owens (seven catches, 156 yards, one touchdown vs. Green Bay last season), Jason Witten (six catches, 67 yards) and Patrick Crayton (three catches, 42 yards, two touchdowns) available to make the Packers pay dearly for their gambling.

"We've done a pretty good job against it," Romo said. "Honestly, that's one of our strengths is the ability to create big plays when people come after us. I think that's why you see less and less teams try to pressure us, just because of our ability with matchups to create some quick-strike opportunities."

Clearly, like every team, the Packers would prefer to pressure Romo with just their front four. With his cache of targets, the Packers can't afford a repeat of Romo having enough time to thumb through his Rolodex before finding Owens deep.

"He's very accurate," linebacker Nick Barnett said. "That's one of his strong points, I think. He has some good weapons to throw it to. If he gets it to them on time, they make plays. So, we need to disrupt him and his receivers."

"We've definitely got to get pressure on Romo," added defensive tackle Ryan Pickett. "We can't let him get comfortable."

The Packers have six sacks this season, but five of those came against the Lions' Jon Kitna, who lacks Romo's pocket presence and massive offensive line.

McCarthy and Sanders know how good the Cowboys' line is, but they have had time to come up with some new wrinkles. Some of those wrinkles were on display during the preseason with unique three- and four-linebacker blitzes. Plus, there's Aaron Kampman and a healthy Gbaja-Biamila.

"We didn't get a lot of pressure on the quarterback. Their offensive line did a good job against our pass rush," McCarthy said. "So, that's a challenge every week and that's why you study the film and you go through the week of preparation and you try to create the matchups that you feel are favorable to you."

Bill Huber is editor of Packer Report and E-mail him at

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