Key matchups for Cowboys-Chiefs

October, 10, 2009
10/10/09
3:01
PM ET

We'll look at one matchup from both sides of the ball:

Cowboys LT Flozell Adams vs. Chiefs OLB Tamba Hali


Adams struggled during last week's loss against a speed rusher making the transition from 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker, allowing two sacks to Denver's Elvis Dumervil. The 6-3, 275-pound Hali, Kansas City's first-round pick in 2006, presents a similar challenge.


If Adams can handle Hali, Tony Romo should have plenty of time to get comfortable in the pocket against the league's 28th-ranked defense. Hali has two of the Chiefs' five sacks this season.


If Hali can get pressure, he could throw a wrench in a Cowboys game plan that doesn't include injured weapons Felix Jones and Roy Williams. Jason Witten was a non-factor as a receiver against the Broncos in large part because he spent much of the afternoon staying in to protect Romo. The Cowboys would much rather have Witten running routes than helping Adams against Hali. They need a strong performance from Adams to get their best weapon the ball.

Cowboys NT Jay Ratliff vs. Chiefs' interior offensive line


The Chiefs have the league's worst third-down conversion rate (17.6 percent) in large part because they haven't been able to get their running game established.
Kansas City will continue to deal with a lot of third-and-long situations if running back Larry Johnson keeps averaging 2.6 yards per carry. To have a chance to establish the run against the Cowboys, the Chiefs have to prevent Ratliff (team-high three tackles for losses) from disrupting plays in the backfield.


That responsibility falls primarily on center Rudy Niswanger's shoulders, but he'll need help from guards Brian Waters and Mike Goff. Four-time Pro Bowler Waters, an undrafted North Texas product the Cowboys tried to make a fullback as a rookie free agent, has developed into one of the league's elite guards. Goff, to put it kindly, isn't very good.


If the Cowboys can shut down the run, watch for Wade Phillips to try to create one-on-one opportunities for Ratliff against Goff on passing downs. Goff has allowed 3.5 sacks this season, tied for the fifth-most in the league.

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