Sunday, November 10, 2013
Welcome to Mercedes-Benz Superdome
By Todd Archer
NEW ORLEANS -- Welcome to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome where the Dallas Cowboys will look to knock off the New Orleans Saints and maintain their one-game lead in the NFC East going into the bye week.
The last time the Cowboys visited they were able to end the Saints’ run at an undefeated season in 2009.
Welcome back: In that 2009 win, DeMarcus Ware had his most memorable game. Six days after leaving a game with his head strapped to a board with a neck injury, Ware was able to play against the Saints. He did not start, but he certainly finished. He sacked Drew Brees twice, including the clincher with a forced fumble in the fourth quarter.
Ware will make his return to the lineup after a three-game absence because of a quadriceps strain, and the Cowboys need him to be a disruptive force. With Jason Hatcher’s status iffy and a line full of no-names, Ware has to get pressure on Brees almost by himself.
He had four sacks in the first six games, but was hampered by stringer and back injuries that limited his playing time and effectiveness. The time off was not only good for his quad, but perhaps for his entire body.
Maximize the possessions: The best way Tony Romo can help a defense that will be under pressure from Brees, Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston and Darren Sproles is to control the ball. But winning the time of possession battle only goes so far.
They also must score touchdowns when available and get field goals at the worst. In their 51-48 loss to the Denver Broncos, the Romo-led offense was able to keep up with eight scoring possessions (six touchdowns, two field goals), but were done in by a fourth-quarter interception.
Scoring early would also help. The Cowboys jumped out to a 14-0 lead in their 2009 win at the Superdome.
Run the ball? The Cowboys ran it a franchise-low nine times last week in their win against the Minnesota Vikings. Take away a Romo scramble and they called only eight runs.
Jason Garrett, Bill Callahan and Romo all say they want to run it more and run it better. They said that at the start of training camp as well.
The Saints have the NFL’s 25th-ranked run defense, giving up 121.3 yards per game on the ground. Coordinator Rob Ryan is so sub-package heavy that the Cowboys could be able to work their running game with a spread look out of a three-wide receiver package.
That would make DeMarco Murray happy.