Patriots - Cowboys: Game Plans & Matchups

News notes, match-ups, game plans and strategies for the Cowboys (2-2) match-up vs the Patriots (4-1).

PATRIOTS

   The Patriots made a couple of  minor transactions earlier this week, re-signing TE Dan Gronkowski, who had recently been released, and releasing OL Thomas Welch.

   From a personnel standpoint, neither move should have a major impact on Sunday's game against the Cowboys. By releasing Welch, it suggests OL Sebastian Vollmer's back injury isn't as serious as the team initially thought. Welch was signed to the practice squad.

   As for Gronkowski, he's more of an insurance policy now that Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski are both healthy.
The team also places Mike Wright on Injured reerve, and signed DT Marcus Harrison. Wright's departure hurts the team's chances to improve their pass rush, though adding Harrison should help with depth along the line. Wright hasn't been able to play since re-injuring himself in the game against the Dolphins.

PLAYER NOTES
   --DL Albert Haynesworth is still limited in practice due to a back injury, and he probably will be a game-time decision Sunday afternoon.
   --CB Leigh Bodden is limited in practice due to a chest injury, but he should be ready to play against the Cowboys.
   --DL Kyle Love was limited in Thursday's practice after participating for the entire session Wednesday. Love is listed with a back injury.
   --OL Sebastian Vollmer was limited in practice Thursday due to a back injury, though it appears his lack of participation is more precautionary at this point, which means he should be ready for Sunday.
   --CB Ras-I Dowling is suffering from a hip injury that has limited his participation in practice this week. He'll likely be a game-time decision Sunday.
   --DB Phillip Adams, waived by the Patriots on Monday, re-signed with the team Thursday when New England placed DL Mike Wright on injured reserve. Adams was active for two games earlier this season. He was released again on Friday when Marcus Harrison was signed.

   GAME PLAN: This will be another strong test for the Patriots' secondary. Although the Cowboys are struggling at 2-2, they still rank among the league leaders in passing.

   Wide receivers Dez Bryant and Miles Austin are big targets, so this will be a big challenge for New England's shorter cornerbacks. Quarterback Tony Romo will most certainly try to air it out early and often, which is what most teams have tried to do against the Patriots.

   Offensively, expect to see the Patriots continue with their balanced attack. They've been fairly even in each of the past two weeks, and it's made a difference in terms of turnovers and points scored; the Patriots have been careful with the ball because they've been less predictable. That needs to continue.

   MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Cowboys WR Dez Bryant vs. Patriots CB Leigh Bodden. The job is never easy for Bodden, and this week is no exception. Bryant tends to get off to fast starts and then disappears down the stretch, but sometimes those two touchdowns he catches early on can make the difference. Bodden needs to be on his toes early.

   Patriots S Patrick Chung vs. Cowboys TE Jason Witten. Chung is always in the position where he must make a dent against an opposing tight end, and Witten is as good as it gets. This will be tough test for Chung. Witten is dangerous over the middle and even more dangerous in the red zone. His ability to get open makes Tony Romo that much more dangerous.


COWBOYS

PLAYER NOTES

   --OG Kyle Kosier was limited in practice for the second straight day with a foot injury. He is expected to play against the Patriots.
   --K David Buehler was again limited in practice with a groin injury and is likely to miss his third straight game as the kickoff specialist.
   --RB Felix Jones has been impressive so far as the team's primary runner. It's his first time handling the role dating back to high school. He has answered some questions about his durability and toughness by playing the last two games with a dislocated shoulder.
   --FB Tony Fiammetta did not practice Thursday with a hamstring injury that kept him out of the Lions game before the bye. He is expected to miss his second straight game on Sunday.

   GAME PLAN:
The Cowboys will need to spread the ball around and score because this will likely be a track meet considering that the Patriots have scored 30 or more points in 13 straight games. The key for QB Tony Romo is to take care of the football and not turn it over. But he must make plays down the field to keep up with Tom Brady. Defensively, the Cowboys must pressure Brady and hopefully force some turnovers. LBs DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer must spend a lot of time in the Patriots backfield.

   MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
   Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick vs. Patriots receiver Wes Welker -- Scandrick is the team's nickel cornerback who usually handles the slot receiver. He will be getting not just any slot receiver, he will be getting Welker, who is on pace to set NFL records for yards and catches in a season.

   Welker doesn't just run the short and horizontal routes anymore. He has been going vertical this season and is tough to tackle. Scandrick will be playing for the first time since suffering a sprained ankle in the season opener.

   Cowboys WRs Miles Austin and Dez Bryant vs. the Patriots secondary --
Austin and Bryant are finally healthy again and will be playing together for the first time since the season opener. Both are game breakers who are tough after the catch and who both can go deep. The Patriots have the league's worst pass defense, giving up 326 yards per game through the air. So there are plays out there to be made by the Cowboys receivers.

Reports courtesy of the Sports Xchange, combined with updates from the staff at PatriotsInsider.com


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\r\n","mobileBody":"    The Patriots made a couple of  minor transactions earlier this week, re-signing TE Dan Gronkowski, who had recently been released, and releasing OL Thomas Welch.    From a personnel standpoint, neither move should have a major impact on Sunday's game against the Cowboys. By releasing Welch, it suggests OL Sebastian Vollmer's back injury isn't as serious as the team initially thought. Welch was signed to the practice squad.    As for Gronkowski, he's more of an insurance policy now that Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski are both healthy. The team also places Mike Wright on Injured reerve, and signed DT Marcus Harrison. Wright's departure hurts the team's chances to improve their pass rush, though adding Harrison should help with depth along the line. Wright hasn't been able to play since re-injuring himself in the game against the Dolphins.    --DL Albert Haynesworth is still limited in practice due to a back injury, and he probably will be a game-time decision Sunday afternoon.    --CB Leigh Bodden is limited in practice due to a chest injury, but he should be ready to play against the Cowboys.    --DL Kyle Love was limited in Thursday's practice after participating for the entire session Wednesday. Love is listed with a back injury.    --OL Sebastian Vollmer was limited in practice Thursday due to a back injury, though it appears his lack of participation is more precautionary at this point, which means he should be ready for Sunday.    --CB Ras-I Dowling is suffering from a hip injury that has limited his participation in practice this week. He'll likely be a game-time decision Sunday.    --DB Phillip Adams, waived by the Patriots on Monday, re-signed with the team Thursday when New England placed DL Mike Wright on injured reserve. Adams was active for two games earlier this season. He was released again on Friday when Marcus Harrison was signed. This will be another strong test for the Patriots' secondary. Although the Cowboys are struggling at 2-2, they still rank among the league leaders in passing.    Wide receivers Dez Bryant and Miles Austin are big targets, so this will be a big challenge for New England's shorter cornerbacks. Quarterback Tony Romo will most certainly try to air it out early and often, which is what most teams have tried to do against the Patriots.    Offensively, expect to see the Patriots continue with their balanced attack. They've been fairly even in each of the past two weeks, and it's made a difference in terms of turnovers and points scored; the Patriots have been careful with the ball because they've been less predictable. That needs to continue. Cowboys WR Dez Bryant vs. Patriots CB Leigh Bodden. The job is never easy for Bodden, and this week is no exception. Bryant tends to get off to fast starts and then disappears down the stretch, but sometimes those two touchdowns he catches early on can make the difference. Bodden needs to be on his toes early.    Patriots S Patrick Chung vs. Cowboys TE Jason Witten. Chung is always in the position where he must make a dent against an opposing tight end, and Witten is as good as it gets. This will be tough test for Chung. Witten is dangerous over the middle and even more dangerous in the red zone. His ability to get open makes Tony Romo that much more dangerous.    --OG Kyle Kosier was limited in practice for the second straight day with a foot injury. He is expected to play against the Patriots.    --K David Buehler was again limited in practice with a groin injury and is likely to miss his third straight game as the kickoff specialist.    --RB Felix Jones has been impressive so far as the team's primary runner. It's his first time handling the role dating back to high school. He has answered some questions about his durability and toughness by playing the last two games with a dislocated shoulder.    --FB Tony Fiammetta did not practice Thursday with a hamstring injury that kept him out of the Lions game before the bye. He is expected to miss his second straight game on Sunday. The Cowboys will need to spread the ball around and score because this will likely be a track meet considering that the Patriots have scored 30 or more points in 13 straight games. The key for QB Tony Romo is to take care of the football and not turn it over. But he must make plays down the field to keep up with Tom Brady. Defensively, the Cowboys must pressure Brady and hopefully force some turnovers. LBs DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer must spend a lot of time in the Patriots backfield.    Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick vs. Patriots receiver Wes Welker -- Scandrick is the team's nickel cornerback who usually handles the slot receiver. He will be getting not just any slot receiver, he will be getting Welker, who is on pace to set NFL records for yards and catches in a season.    Welker doesn't just run the short and horizontal routes anymore. He has been going vertical this season and is tough to tackle. Scandrick will be playing for the first time since suffering a sprained ankle in the season opener.    Cowboys WRs Miles Austin and Dez Bryant vs. the Patriots secondary -- Austin and Bryant are finally healthy again and will be playing together for the first time since the season opener. Both are game breakers who are tough after the catch and who both can go deep. The Patriots have the league's worst pass defense, giving up 326 yards per game through the air. So there are plays out there to be made by the Cowboys receivers. 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