Patriots - Cowboys: Keys To The Game

Rich Lyons takes the stats, injuries, news and notes from the week to get inside the game for his key battles and top observations for this week's matchup between the New England Patriots and the Dallas Cowboys.

Matchup Of The Game: DeMarcus Ware vs. Matt Light

For the Cowboys to remain undefeated and win this game, they are going to have to get pressure on both the running game and Tom Brady. DeMarcus Ware is one of the most electrifying defensive players you will see, and is very destructive to an offense’s game plan. When Ware is speed-rushing from the outside, it will be Matt Light’’s responsibility to at least slow Ware down to give the running backs an opportunity to get out of the backfield, and give Brady time to either get rid of the ball, or elude the pressure that the defense will be bringing. If Ware records some sacks and tackles for losses in the early going, the crowd will feed off of that, and it will put the Pats on the ropes early, which is not a good position for a team that has only been losing for a few minutes this year.

New England Keys To Victory:

1. Attack The Dallas Secondary: With Henry out, Dallas is just going to have to try and limit the amount of catches made by New England wide receivers. With the five-headed receiving monster, it will be tough for the Cowboys to keep tabs on all of them. While they will likely initially double Randy Moss, Brady will be looking for Stallworth, Welker, and Watson first to set up Moss on later drives. One thing is for certain: When all is said and done, Randy Moss will leave his mark on this game.

2. Stop The Run Early: If the Pats allow Barber and Jones to get going, it could be a long day for the New England D. It will be tough to get through the line to make plays in the backfield, so the linebackers are really going to have to step up and make tackles to limit the amount of yardage these guys can get. The Pats are the best in the league at stopping teams on third down, so putting Dallas in third-and-medium-to-long yardage situations will be critical to slow this high-powered offense down.

3. An Effective Offensive Line: This unit is probably the most unheralded bunch in the NFL. Brady has been sacked twice all year. Only giving up two sacks in five games is a phenomenal feat, and these guys are a big reason why the Pats have put up 30+ points in every game this year. They will have their hands full when Wade Phillips starts using different blitz schemes to get to Brady behind the line. It will be a big challenge for the line, but given their past, it is a challenge they will likely welcome. If Brady puts up the kind of stats against Dallas that he has in his first five games, this line should shoot right to the top in terms of the best in the league.

Dallas Keys To Victory:

1. Not Asking Tony Romo To Do Too Much: Romo, for the most part, is a fairly good decision maker, but if pressure is applied to him, or Dallas is down by a big deficit, all bets are off. Romo has got to stay away from trying to do more than he has to. What he needs to do is find T.O. in single coverage, or find a mismatch on Jason Witten, and exploit that. If Owens is being doubled, why take a chance against one of the better secondaries in the league? If Romo throws more than two interceptions, the Cowboys are going to lose this game.

2. Establish The Run Early And Often: To cut down on the amount of mistakes Romo can make, Dallas needs to use their talented offensive line to create holes for their two-back system to rack up yards. Once a running game is established, you will notice the safeties begin to start cheating in in an attempt to read the play. This is when play action is at its most effective point. Now, with the safeties off-balance, the deep ball can be instituted, and Owens will likely be in man-to-man coverage, which does not favor the Patriots no matter who is covering him.

3. Special Teams: Without Nick Folk’s heroics last week, this game would have much less significance than it has right now. Folk showed that he is deadly accurate, and if this game does become close, he could be called upon to settle the game, and if last week was any indication, he certainly can do the job. Also, kickoff and punt coverage will be a big part in limiting the amount of good field position the Pats start off with. The Cowboys got burned on a Terrance McGee kickoff return for a TD, and if they give Ellis Hobbs or Wes Welker time and space to create, it could be déjà vu all over again.

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