Dallas Cowboys: Five-star W6


Five-star question: Will the Patriots tie the NFL record of 14 consecutive games with at least 30 points this week?

Rob Ryan may be a tad arrogant, but he remains an intelligent football man.

He knows Tom Brady has been studying video of the Browns' win over New England last season, when Ryan orchestrated the last defense to hold New England under 30 points.

He knows that game plan won't work again.

So, yes, the Patriots are going to set a new NFL record this week.

Since Ryan's defense shut them down, the Patriots have torched Pittsburgh, Chicago, Green Bay, San Diego and the New York Jets for more than 30 points.

Let's be honest, each of those units is better than the Cowboys.

Maybe, the Cowboys will stop them for a little while like they did against Detroit and quarterback Matt Stafford. But once Brady finds a rhythm, it's over.

The biggest problem for the Cowboys is who's going to cover Wes Welker because New England always finds a way to get him the ball and he's the ultimate chain move. Darrelle Revis took him last week, and the Jets still couldn't slow him down.

There are no Revis clones in the Cowboys' secondary.

Five-star answer: Cowboys need pressure, offense

October, 13, 2011
10/13/11
9:20
AM ET
Five-star question: Will the Patriots tie the NFL record of 14 consecutive games with at least 30 points this week?

The date was Nov. 7, 2010, and the New England Patriots were visiting the Cleveland Browns in a contest in which the home team was coming off a bye week and also riding the momentum of an outstanding road win against the defending champion New Orleans Saints.

The defensive coordinator for the Browns that day was Rob Ryan, now with the Cowboys. The Browns didn't have a great deal to for which to play, but at 2-5 it was another opportunity to get some game experience for rookie quarterback Colt McCoy.

To Ryan's credit, his Browns had not played that poorly, allowing opponents to score an average of about 20 points a game. On the other side, the Patriots came into the game with a 6–1 record and averaging 26 points per game. With a Browns team that was nowhere near as talented as the defense he coaches today, Ryan was able to do something that most defensive coordinators attempted to do, and that was fool Tom Brady with the scheme.

Ryan opened the game in his base 3-4 look but after that, he played nickel, with two down linemen and four linebackers or he played no down linemen, stand-up linebackers and defensive backs with man coverage behind it. Ryan did a great job of never giving Brady and the Patriots' offense the same look, whether it was fronts or coverages. The Browns did a nice job of not allowing Brady to feel comfortable in the pocket.

There were opportunities for Brady to hit on some passes but he just wasn't steady enough to make the accurate throws and his receivers let him down with bad drops. Ryan's defense was also able to force a fumble from tight end Rob Gronkowski near the goal line right before the half that held the lead at 17–7 for the Browns. The unit was also able to force the Patriots out on downs from the Browns 15 in the fourth quarter.

Ryan called a wonderful game and he was able to match his personnel up against the Patriots' and not give up any huge plays. The thing you notice quickly about this current Patriots squad is their ability to make plays down the field. I have never seen an offense that runs more crossing routes down the field.

The Patriots do a really nice job of breaking down your scheme. Where this game for the Cowboys could very well hinge is not so much how Ryan deals with Wes Welker but with tight ends Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, who really don't play like true tight ends.

To Ryan's benefit, it will be the first time since early in training camp that he will be able to use Mike Jenkins, Terence Newman and Orlando Scandrick at the same time. The Patriots put a ton of pressure with formations and the fact that they play with one of the all-time great quarterbacks in Brady.

I think that the Cowboys and Ryan will be able to hold this offense under 30 points because of the pressure that he can bring and how he will be able to use his coverage. The Cowboys' offense will have a huge hand as well in how this game will shake out. The Patriots have struggled to generate enough pass rush to cause offenses problems and the secondary gives up room on routes.

I believe that Ryan and this defense will get some stops, but it's up to the Cowboys' offense to not give up possessions as well. If they can do that it will help this defense greatly.

The loss to Ryan's Browns was the last time that Brady and the Patriots' offense didn't score 30 or more points in a regular-season game. Since, they have scored 30 or more against some quality defenses: Pittsburgh, Chicago, Green Bay, San Diego and the New York Jets have all had to deal with this Patriots offensive attack.
Five-star question: Will the Patriots tie the NFL record of 14 consecutive games with at least 30 points this week?

No.

The Cowboys are the best defense the Patriots have seen this season. Now quarterback Tom Brady will beat up the secondary a little bit if given time, but with Rob Ryan's defensive scheme of mixing coverages and moving his top defensive players around, it should cause Brady some problems.

DeMarcus Ware is the best pass rush threat for the Cowboys. If given one-on-one play against tackles Matt Light and Sebastian Vollmer he should see some success. Ware is getting one-on-one coverage due to Ryan moving him around the line of scrimmage. It will also be interesting to see how guards Logan Mankins and Brian Waters handle nose tackle Jay Ratliff.

He's been double-teamed all season and Ratliff continues to get a strong push to the pocket. On the season, Ratliff has just three quarterback pressures, but that's opened the door for some other players to make plays on the ball such as Sean Lee, the inside linebacker, with a team-leading two interceptions.

And with the pressures the Cowboys put on Brady, safeties Abram Elam and Gerald Sensabaugh could be in play to make plays on pick some passes off.

Besides, the Cowboys perform better after bye weeks a 16-6 record overall, winning five of their last six games. That extra week allows them to prepare and get some injured players healthy.

The defense, especially the secondary, is healthier with Orlando Scandrick (ankle) and Mike Jenkins (shoulder and knee) getting an extra week to get well.
Five-star question: Will the Patriots tie the NFL record of 14 consecutive games with at least 30 points this week?

No disrespect intended to Rob Ryan or the players he has declared the most talented cast of defenders in the NFL.

This isn’t a knock on the Cowboys’ defense. It’s props for the Patriots’ offense. And it’s doubt about the Dallas running game.

The only way to hold the Patriots to less than 30 points is to force Tom Brady and Co. to spend most of Sunday afternoon on the sideline. Just look at the last time it happened.

Yes, Ryan deserves a ton of credit for coming up with a defensive game plan that confused Brady, causing the Patriots to go only 3-of-11 on third-down conversions. But it was hard for Brady to get into a rhythm while watching the Browns rush for 230 yards and control the ball for more than 38 minutes.

The Browns rode their workhorse that afternoon. Peyton Hillis had 184 yards on 29 carries.

Anybody see a workhorse in the Cowboys’ backfield? Have any hope that the NFL’s No. 30 rushing offense can chew up the clock?

Five-star answer: Patriots fall short of 30

October, 13, 2011
10/13/11
9:05
AM ET
Five-star question: Will the Patriots tie the NFL record of 14 consecutive games with at least 30 points this week?

I think the Patriots’ run comes to an end this week, but not by much since I predicted a 28-24 Patriots’ victory.

Some of it will have to do with Rob Ryan’s defense against Tom Brady. Some of it will have to do with how much the Cowboys control the ball. Some of it will have to do with all good things coming to an end.

The last time New England did not score 30 points came against Ryan’s defense in Cleveland. They held the Patriots to 14 points in Week 9 last year. Having worked in New England as an assistant coach, Ryan has an understanding of what the Patriots and Brady like to do.

And I’m sure some phone calls will be made to the New York Jets as well with Ryan picking the brain of his brother, Rex.

The Cowboys will have their top three cornerbacks available to them for the first time this season with the return of Orlando Scandrick from an ankle injury. That will give Ryan some flexibility to be creative with his coverages that he was not able to do in the first four games.

The key, however, will be pressure on Brady. Bill Belichick said DeMarcus Ware is the best player the Patriots have seen this season, but New England’s offensive line will be the best the Cowboys have seen this season. Brady has been sacked eight times and is averaging 9.56 yards per attempt. He is deadly with time to throw to Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Deion Branch.

He’ll be deadly again Sunday; just not enough to score 30.

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