This will be another tough and must win game for the Cowboys. This is the type of game that will have players from both teams make frequent visits to the training room for treatment the following week. The third in a row for the Cowboys and this is the type of game that they need to continue to win to make and be successful in the playoffs. Winning black and blue games develop physical toughness and most importantly, mental toughness that will enable the Cowboys to perform at a high level for pressure-filled games like the playoffs. The other reason is that the Cowboys need to simply win is because the Falcons, Panthers, Bucs, and the resurgent Eagles are not going to fade away.
Over the last two games against the Giants and Steelers the Cowboys running game hasn't been stellar, but has been effective in order to keep those two defenses honest and must continue to do so. Choice has done a great job of filling in for Barber and is making the most of having fresh legs as compared to defensive players who have been playing all season with aches and pains. Hopefully Barber is completely healed from his toe, so that the offense can have the two-headed monster again. Last week against the Giants, Romo threw for 240 yards and he had ZERO interceptions and fumbles. Obviously, the Cowboys success depends on how well Romo can protect the ball against a defense that brings a lot of pressure to offenses as attested over the last two games against the Steelers and Giants. Romo had four turnovers against the Steelers and the Cowboys lost; and he had zero turnovers against the Giants and the Cowboys won. I feel that Romo has learned that down the stretch and in the playoffs that it is better to throw between 175 and 240 yards and zero turnovers, than to throw for over 300 yards with three or more turnovers. Off course it would be awesome if he would throw for 300 plus yards with zero interceptions. Offensive penalties are the other facet that the Cowboys must reduce in order to win in December and through the playoffs. Hands-to-the-face type penalties are difficult to avoid because of the speed of the game, but the pre-snap penalties need to be eradicated because these demonstrate a team's lack of mental toughness or discipline.
This past week a lot has been written about the return of Doomsday. Demarcus Ware leads the way with 19 sacks and the emergence of Ratliff at nose-tackle has led for both of them to be selected to the pro-bowl. Both selections are well deserved, but there was a snub by the voters and this player is going to have a monster game against the Ravens and the remainder of the season. The player in question is Bradie James and he is going to play with a chip on his shoulder. James has had an awesome season by leading the team in tackles with over 150 tackles, 6 sacks, and 2 fumble recoveries. He is going to be all over the field and the PA announcer will be announcing his name on just about every tackle or big play. The pass rush will continue to apply pressure and continue to rack-up the sacks, now that the secondary is covering receivers like smell on garbage. The much-maligned-rookie Scandrick is playing great corner while covering the elusive and quick slot receivers that are featured on 3 - 5 receiver sets. He was criticized for a feeble tackling against the Giants the first time the Cowboys played them. But over the last few games including the Giants game, Scandrick has forced quarterbacks to throw a perfect pass because he has done a great job of covering his receiver and Scandrick has not allowed any yardage after the catch when receivers do catch the ball.
Special Teams' Key
Special teams must continue to play big again in order for the Cowboys to win the game against the Ravens. This is also where Romo can make a large impact by continuing to protect the ball and allowing the special teams and defense to help the offense win the battle for field position. Patrick Crayton should continue to field punts and Miles Austin receives kickoffs even though Adam Jones is returning to the roster because they are more consistent than Jones. Jones does bring homerun capability, but he also loses yardage and/or minimal yards per return. You know Coach Jerry wants homerun capability.
Coaching Staff Musts
Coach Phillips and defensive coordinator Brian Stewart must continue to have the defense bring the heat throughout the entire game against the Ravens. The defense cannot have a let down of any sort and they must lead the Cowboys to victory. Jason Garrett the offensive coordinator needs to come up with a play progression or one that compliments the delay out of the shotgun in order to loosen up the defense. Trick plays are good only if they are part of the offensive progression, otherwise these are just cute plays that have no effect on the game.