Other than, you know, supporting your local Ewoks.
Anyway, here's what I view as some keys to winning this game. Keep in mind I am no expert, scout, or even former player (beyond the high school level.) Don't take these things as gospel (hell, I don't even do that.) Onward and forward, but most just downway.
Key #1 - Get Pressure to Romo in the Pocket
This is pretty much key one for every defensive coordinator's game plan, ever. Get pressure to the QB. But with Romo, it is imperative because when he has time, he finds receivers and they make big plays. The Dallas offense is predicated on big plays and pounding Marion Barber. OC Jason Garrett is no dummy (he went to Princeton, yo) so he'll expect this.
Which is why I think the defense need to get pressure up the middle, to keep the edge rushers for containment. With Jason Taylor's 133-games played streak coming to an end, and Erasmus James being a virtual no show (remember that time when we here at HH thought James could be a big addition... that is, before the Taylor trade) it seems unlikely that any pressure is going to come off the edge against perennial Pro Bowler OT Flozell Adams and the steady Marc Colombo. If this can happen rushing 4, that'd be great. If Blache has to start blitzing, it could be a long afternoon.
Which is why the pressure needs to come up the middle. Starting G Kyle Kosier is out and the other G, former T and big free agent pickup from a year ago, Leonard Davis had an off night last week. The Packers have some pretty good pass rushers (KGB, Kampman) that got nowhere. For the record, Kampman did have 1.5 sacks. But most of that came from pressure coming up the middle in the form of one Cullen Jenkins. Griffin, Golston and company have to provide that this weekend.
And I specifically said pressure "in the pocket" because I happen to think that Romo is at his best when he breaks the pocket, creates with his legs to find receivers down field. Not saying he can't throw from the pocket (he can and will) but he makes his money for what he does when things break down.
Key #2 - Take away Owens or Witten
This one is self-explanatory. You can't take away both. The Packers took Owens out of that game (2 catches, 17 yards) but it kept Witten running open in the middle and sprung Miles Austin for that big gain down the middle to set up a TD.
That is the big reason why getting pressure with 4 (or, rather, as few defenders as possible) is key: you need as many guys in coverage as possible to stop the big play ability of this offense. Springs, at this stage of his career, is not Charles Woodson but he has done a pretty good job against Owens.
The thing is to understand that Owens is going to get his catches. Tackling him immediately and not letting him run after the catch, where he is most dangerous, is crucial. Witten is Romo's favorite target, especially when he needs a play. Keeping him from running wild in the middle of the defense is also crucial. Keeping this team away from big plays will help to control the crowd. Its a tough task, but it can be done.
Key #3 - Contain Barber
Again, tough to do. He can't pick up first down after first down if the Skins expect to win. He is a tough runner who eats up yards, defenders and the clock. He's going to get his yards... but when he breaks tackles and does his little jumping dace thing, the home crowd and his team responds by upping their energy. If there is such thing as an on-field emotional leader (SP, make note to ask your professor buddies about their theories on this) Marion Barber III is that guy for Dallas. As he goes, so does this offense.
Keeping him in check early is also key to keeping him from wearing down the defense later. Dallas loves to get off to a fast start, put up points, put pressure on the opposing offense, and grind out the clock in the 4th by feeding Barber the rock. This is the absolute worst thing that can happen to an opponent.
Keep in mind that rookie RB Felix Jones, who has up to this point been a minimal part of the offense, has the ability to take it to the house in any situation. he is the perfect complement for Barber with his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Oh, and he's wicked fast.
I know it sounds like I'm making the Cowboys out to be a really good offensive team... but that's only because they are. Don't take my word for it: (3rd in total offense at 32.0 points per game, 4th in passing offense at 297.3 yards per game, 9th in rushing offense at 150.7 per game, and 1st in combined offense. Pretty impressive.
Key #4 - Win the "little things"
To win, the Skins need to win on special teams (that means you grow a damn mustache, kick the ball good, and hold it right, Mr. Brooks), they need to win the turnover battle, and they need to win the field position game. That means punting on 4th and short in certain situations and going for it in others.
Dallas commits penalties (tied for 1st with 28) and Dallas will turn the ball over (Romo has 3 picks and 1 fumble, Barber has a fumble) so these things need to be capitalized in order to win. This also means no stupid penalties that keep drives alive. (Mr. Heyer and Mr Smoot, I'm talking to you guys.)
The Redskins are, straight up, not good enough to beat the Cowboys if they play bad football and do dumb things like turn the ball over and get penalized. They need to play flawless football and capitalize on any and all mistakes. That means 6 points, not 3.
Final Key - Third Down
The Cowboys offense is at the top of the league on 3rd down at 60% (that percentage is way high and will come back to the mean eventually... hopefully this Sunday) while the Redskins are near the bottom at 31.4%. That 30 percent swing can be deadly.
On defense, Dallas gives up 34.3%, good for 10th while the Redskins are again at the bottom (tied for 23rd) at 42.9%. Combine that with the offensive stats, and things don't look good. JC and this new "rhythm offense" needs to get that going and stay on the field. The defense needs to close the deal and get off the field on 3rd down. Giving Romo extra opportunities at points is not a good idea.
That's all I got for now. Back to work for me, but first... my Week 4 Blogger Deathsport picks. Check out last week's results over at The Curly R. Ben is so good to me.
BUF (-8) @ STL
ATL @ CAR (-7)
PHI @ CHI (off the board = straight up even)
CLE @ CIN (-3.5)
WAS @ DAL (-11.5)
DEN (-9) @ KC
HOU (-7.5) @ JAX
SF @ NO (-6)
ARZ @ NYJ (-2.5)
SD (-7.5) @ OAK
GB @ TB (-1)
MIN @ TEN (-3)
BAL @ PIT (off the board = straight up even) PIT wins close at home... 20-17.
Enjoy the rest of Dallas Week.