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Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Oakland: Keys to beating Dallas

By Bill Williamson

Here are some keys for Oakland as it tries to pull off its second upset win in four days Thursday at Dallas:

Timely plays: Oakland stunned Cincinnati because it made big plays at key times. It recovered a fumble deep in its own territory late in the game, it put together its best offensive drive of the game in the final minute and it made the special-teams play of the season in the final seconds. To beat Dallas, Oakland is going to need to come up with similar timely plays.

In Bruce they trust: The Oakland offense has to continue to develop under the leadership of quarterback Bruce Gradkowski in his second start as JaMarcus Russell’s replacement. Oakland played with energy behind Gradkowski and showed a new will to win. Gradkowski is limited, but he is spunky. Oakland’s offense has to continue to show belief in him throughout the game, even if he struggles early as he did against the Bengals.

Make Romo uncomfortable: Dallas quarterback Tony Romo suffered a back injury against Washington on Sunday. He is expected to play. However, on a short week, Romo is sure to be tender during the game. So, Oakland has to put the heat on him and knock him to the ground often. Oakland played well defensively against Cincinnati. It has to continue its improved play and put pressure on Romo.

Air it out more: According to ESPN Stats & Information, Oakland has the fewest pass plays of 30 yards or more in the NFL with three. Gradkowski doesn’t have the arm that Russell has, but he has a better grip on the offense. Oakland tied the score against Cincinnati in the final seconds with a 29-yard touchdown pass from Gradkowski to rookie Louis Murphy. It needs to try more of these plays. The only way Oakland is going to beat Dallas is if it gets gutsy. Throwing deep would be a good start.