This will be part of an ongoing series where we take a look at each individual team we will face this season.
Since Tony Romo has taken over as the Cowboys triggerman, they have consistently been one of the best regular season teams in the NFL. However, that success hasn't carried over into the postseason as their wild card win last year was the first playoff win since 1996. The organization will look to that last win as a stepping stone for a deep playoff run this season. Anything less than a Super Bowl run this year will be a let down for Cowboys fans, which in general have unreasonable expectations to begin with. This year, though, they may not be that far off, as the Cowboys look to be one of the early favorites to win it all.
Follow me through the jump for a look at the Cowboys 2009 Season, the offseason, and three keys to winning this matchup.
2009 Season (11-5)
|Rushing YPG||PPG||Offensive DVOA||Defensive YPG||D. Passing YPG||D. Rushing YPG||Defensive PPG||Defensive DVOA|
* stats from NFL.com and Footballoutsiders.com
By most accounts, the 2009 season was a good year for the Dallas Cowboys. They finished with an 11-5 record and, for the most part, were consistent all year long. The Cowboys pounded the Eagles 34-14 in the wild card round only to suffer a similar defeat at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings in the divisional round, losing 34-3. The win in the playoffs is a big step forward for a team that hasn't won a postseason game in the new millennium. And, while it's a step in the right direction, most Cowboy fans have the same question in the back of their minds: Can Tony Romo lead this team to a Super Bowl?
On paper, this team was one of the best in football last year, especially offensively. They stayed balanced and could beat teams through the air or on the ground. Tony Romo had another great year, in no small part due to the success of Miles Austin. Austin caught fire and emerged as a #1 receiver in Terrell Owens absence. In his first start at receiver against the Chiefs, Austin set the new franchise record for receiving yards (250). Despite only starting 9 games at receiver, Austin led the NFC in receiving yards. In the rushing game, the Cowboys started giving their speedster, Felix Jones, more touches. He ran the ball 113 times last year, up from only 30 his rookie year, and averaged 5.9 ypc. Barber led the team in carries, though he struggled at times. And, Tashard Choice rounded out the three headed rushing attack, though his role was very limited.
Defensively, it was more of a struggle. At times, this team was susceptible to being beat through the air, finishing 20th in the league in total yards given up through the air. They did stay solid against the run game, and, despite their vulnerability against the pass, the defense did their job of keeping teams out of the endzone.
The Offseason: Free Agency and The Draft
The Cowboys didn't make any acquisitions in Free Agency, which is very "unJerrylike". The only two losses in free agency were Shaun Suisham (K) who signed with Cleveland, and Cory Proctor (C) who signed with Miami.
The Dallas Cowboys may have gotten the best first round value out of any team in this year's draft. Realizing a legit playmaker was still on the board, they traded up three spots to take Dez Bryant (WR) with the 24th pick of this year's draft. Arguably the most talented player in the draft, Bryant enters the league in a perfect scenario: a chip on his shoulder, an already dynamic offense, and the potential to start on day one. If he can stay focused, this kid has the talent to be a Pro Bowler as a rookie. The Cowboys used the majority of the picks on defense, getting good value in the second round with Sean Lee (LB) from Penn State, and then drafting two corners, a DT, and one OT. Those picks can be viewed here.
Three keys to winning
1. Attack Tony Romo. It pains me to say this, but if we can't get "2008 pressure" with this front four this game, it's going to get ugly. We need Derrick Morgan to look like ROTY in addition to a healthy Jason Jones, and a pissed off Tony Brown. We probably also need to bring some additional pressure as well.
2. Spread the field. You aren't going to win this game with ball control and the running game. Let Vince loose. The same goes for Hawkins, Cook, and Williams if he's ready. Get your playmakers on the field try to get points on the board as fast as possible. VY will need to throw 25+ passes, and play well, to win this game.
3. Don't allow the big play. Stay in soft coverage all game. Never let these receivers get behind the corners, and always make sure we have help over the top.
I don't think this matchup could look much worse. This team is tailor made to pound the Titans. That said, a big game from Vince wouldn't surprise me in front of the Texas crowd. In the end, it's probably too little too late. This secondary is just too bad not to be exploited by Tony Romo and company. Titans lose decisively, 38-21.