With the Colts facing the Dallas Cowboys this Sunday, Stampede Blue's Josh Wilson talked with Blogging The Boys' Dave Halprin about the Cowboys and this Sunday's matchup. The questions are in bold and then Dave's responses follow.
1. What's the update on DeMarco Murray? I assume he will play, but will the injury have any impact on how the Cowboys run their offense even if Murray does play?
It sure sounds like he plans to play, but coach Jason Garrett has been very coy with his responses to questions about whether Murray will go. How much the Cowboys are serious about playing him, or how much they're sending up a smoke-screen is hard to tell. He's been doing limited participation in practice but from what I can gather he's hasn't really tested the left hand yet. I don't think the Cowboys game plan will change much if Murray plays, doesn't play or plays some. They are going to try and run the ball and control the clock and keep Andrew Luck and his receivers on the sideline. That's been the Cowboys formula for victory all year - a pounding running game, then take shots downfield when the defense starts creeping up closer to the line. Whether Murray plays or not, they are going to try to keep to that formula.
2. What are Cowboys' fans thoughts on Tony Romo? I know the opinions on him vary more than perhaps for any other quarterback, but how do Cowboys fans feel about him?
Well, I can't answer for all Cowboys fans, the opinions of that large group of people will vary widely, so I won't even try to speak for all of them. Personally, I think Tony Romo has never been the problem in Dallas. There are certain memes that have popped up about him, but when you look at the cold, hard stats, they don't really hold up. Romo is having one of his finest seasons as a pro, mainly because he has a running game he can rely on, has an offensive line that doesn't leak like a sieve, and the Cowboys coaches are calling smarter games. Romo was asked to carry this team in the past, and when you do that, sometimes mistakes follow. He's had his share of mistakes but in the overall view, he's been a very good quarterback and has never been the real issue in Dallas. So my personal opinion is I'm very glad the Cowboys have him.
3. How has the Cowboys' defense been this year? They don't look particularly good statistically, but many Colts fans don't know much about the other side of the ball for Dallas. How has their defense done this season?
Statistically, they don't look like the greatest group. But somehow, they've managed to do enough at certain parts of the game to tilt things in the Cowboys' favor. Whether it's coming up with crucial stops during the game, or coming up with a turnover, they've managed to do enough to win games. They don't rush the passer particularly well, although they are getting better at it as the year progresses. They have very active linebackers, especially Rolando McClain, he has been a big plus. And they have Orlando Scandrick who is a very good cover corner. The Cowboys defense is going to give up plays and points, but they are also going to play well for portions of a game, and they will likely get the team a turnover or two. They've been doing just enough for the Cowboys to win.
4. Knowing what you do about the Cowboys, how would you expect them to attack the Colts on Sunday?
There's not a lot of mystery in the Cowboys game plan. They are going to try and run the ball behind their very good offensive line. They will keep pounding the ball, even when they are having limited success. They will try to wear down a defense, and force them to roll a safety up into the box. When they see opportunity in the coverage, they will take shots with Dez Bryant or Jason Witten. This what they do when they are playing winning football. On defense, they are more bend-don't-break instead of an all-out aggressive attack on the QB. They will give up completions and they can be run on, but they will rally to tackles and try to strip or intercept the ball.
5. How would you expect the Colts to attack the Cowboys?
Attack the linebackers in coverage. The Cowboys linebackers can struggle in that phase of the game, so use your tight ends and running backs. Utilize the middle of the field with the wide outs on crossing patterns, deep-ins, etc. Try some double-moves on the outside because the Cowboys corners, especially Brandon Carr, can make mistakes that will be costly. If you can run the ball do so, although I'm not sure how much the Colts will do that given their history this season. On defense, you have to stop the run. If you don't the Cowboys will stick with it all game and they will get big plays out of it. And I wouldn't try too much single-coverage on Dez Bryant, regardless of who is covering him. He's just too good to stop for a whole game in single-coverage.
Bonus: What's your prediction for the game?
The Cowboys are desperate to win, their playoff lives hang in the balance. This extra motivation will give them the edge, they win 31-24.
Thanks again to Dave Halprin of Blogging The Boys for taking the time to answer these questions!
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