In week 13 our Indianapolis Colts will travel to take on the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. Knowing the party was coming, I sat down with Dave Halprin of Blogging the Boys. You can also find Dave on Twitter @dave_halprin. We swapped questions and answers about this weekend's Colts vs. Cowboys matchup and the article that follows is what I learned about this week's game:
CS: Since the Cowboys' week 9 bye their offense has averaged 32 points per game. If you were designing a defense to slow down this Cowboys offense what would it look like? What player would you focus on limiting?
DH: The best way to slow down the Cowboys offense is to force them to run as many plays as possible. Don’t give them easy yards and don’t go out of your way to blitz Dak Prescott. Prescott thrives on beating the blitz, and it is possible to create some pressure on the Cowboys offense with a regular pass rush. The reason you want them to have offensive drives with a lot of plays is that the Cowboys have the tendency to shoot themselves in the foot with penalties and occasional turnovers. Dallas is one of the most penalized teams in the league and false starts and holding calls have plagued them on offense.
As good as Prescott has been in his return, he has thrown some interceptions. Some of it has been on poor routes from his receivers, but they all count the same. I would not let the Ezekiel Elliott/Tony Pollard run game get on track because when the Cowboys can run the ball they tend to steamroll teams and let their defense clean up the wreckage. You want to force them into passing, and hope they make mistakes like penalties or turnovers. So a bend-don’t-break defense that focuses on slowing down the run is probably your best bet.
CS: Who is a player, on either side of the ball, who has surprised you in a positive way this season, and who has surprised you in a negative way?
DH: On defense, Dorance Armstrong has suddenly blossomed now that Randy Gregory is no longer taking up some of his playing time. In four previous seasons as a Cowboys defensive end, he had a total of 7.5 sacks. He already has 8 this season. Most fans had come to view him as a rotation piece that wouldn’t hurt you much, but also wasn’t going to create a lot of splash plays. This season he has been dangerous, and he has also blocked a punt. He’s turned into a playmaker alongside Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence.
It’s hard to pick a guy who has been a negative for the Cowboys so far, they’ve really been solid. I guess you could say cornerback Anthony Brown has been one of the weaker links. Trevon Diggs on the other side is a guy quarterbacks tend to avoid, so Brown sees a lot of targets and he has allowed a pretty high passer rating. He’s not awful, but he is definitely a player that teams attack on the defense.
CS: This season the Cowboys' defense has been very good but they seem to allow teams to rush for a lot of yards. Is it fair to say the Cowboys are content to let teams run and do you think a successful rushing attack is a viable way to beat up the 2022 Cowboys defense?
DH: There is probably a mix of the Cowboys defense being a little weaker against the run than you would normally like, and them being content for teams to run the ball in certain situations. Running the ball is definitely the better mode of attack against the Cowboys defense. The last thing you want to do as an offense is to become one-dimensional in passing the ball. The Cowboys pass rush is relentless, and they are going to get their sacks, and they are going to force turnovers or force throwaways, and they don’t really need to blitz to accomplish that.
The best thing an offense can do is run the ball. Dallas has improved recently against the run, but it is still their weak point. It helps if you have a mobile quarterback as the Cowboys struggle containing them, but obviously the Colts do not currently have that. The Colts defense can certainly help the situation by not letting the Cowboys get out to a lead and forcing the offense to abandon the run. That’s when the Cowboys really thrive.
CS: The Colts have struggled to protect Matt Ryan all season long and are starting a third-round rookie left tackle who was selected as a developmental prospect named Bernhard Raimann. Pretend you’re talking to someone who has never heard of any of the Cowboys' pass rushers, who do we need to look out for, and realistically how many sacks should Colts fans prepare for and why is it 10?
DH: The Cowboys have a player named Micah Parsons. He’s pretty good. In all seriousness, Parsons is just an absolute game-wrecker. You can’t block him consistently just one-on-one, but he also defeats double teams regularly. He has an assortment of pass rush moves and he is both speed and power. He is truly a generational player. As long as the Cowboys play him more as a pass rusher instead of an off-ball linebacker, he’s going to be in the Colts backfield. Along with him are DeMarcus Lawrence and Dorance Armstrong that we mentioned above. Lawrence is very good at getting pressure and pushing quarterbacks into the arms of Parsons and Armstrong.
Even the reserves like Dante Fowler and rookie Sam Williams are dangerous pass rushers. There is literally no rest from the Cowboys pass rush as each defensive end they put in the game is capable of getting to the quarterback. Dan Quinn does a very good job of moving them around and lining them up in advantageous positions. If I had to guess, I would say the Cowboys get five sacks in the game. Most teams eventually turn to running the ball even if they don’t want to based on the score, or they use a very quick passing game to avoid the pressure.
CS: As of right now DraftKings Sportsbook has the over/under for this game at 43.5 points, how would you bet that one? How do you see the game going and what do you predict for a final score?
DH: This is actually a tough one because the Colts defense is formidable. I don’t expect the Colts offense to put up a ton of points based on their season so far and the quality of the Cowboys defense, but the Colts defense will make the over/under an interesting proposition. I think in the end the Cowboys will stretch out a lead in the second half after a slow first half for both teams. In the end, though, the two teams will barely miss the over. Cowboys 27 - Colts 14.
I can’t thank Dave enough for taking the time to answer my questions and give us a look at what we can expect from the Cowboys this weekend. And remember Colts fans, a bad week of football is easily 200% better than a great week of the offseason.