Friday, October 09, 2009

JJT: Three keys for Cowboys to beat Kansas City

By Jean-Jacques Taylor/Columnist

Stretch The Field: The Cowboys' offense has scored only two offensive touchdowns in the past two games, in part, because they can't stretch the field. That means linebackers and safeties are playing a little closer to the line of scrimmage, making it harder to run. Tony Romo is just 1 for 7 for 80 yards with a touchdown and an interception on passes for 21 yards or more. Romo must attack downfield to loosen up the Chiefs' defense against the run and the underneath passing game.

Dominate third down: Wade Phillips wants to win first down so he can use his exotic blitz package on third down, but Dallas has just one third-down sack in the first four games. Still, they've been pretty good on third down, stopping the opposition 14 of 46 times (30.4 percent), which is good for fifth in the league. And they're doing this without getting a sack from DeMarcus Ware. The Chiefs are a pedestrian offensive team, so there's no reason to think Dallas can't consistently win third down against them.

Stop Big Plays: Brandon Marshall's 51-yard catch-and-run beat the Cowboys last week against Denver. Dallas had allowed 16 plays of 20 yards or more this season - only three teams have allowed more - which is a trend that needs to stop right now. Kansas City isn't good enough to consistently drive 80 yards against their defense. If they eliminate the big plays, the Chiefs can't win.