Setting the Stage:
Mon. Night Football (Sept. 25- 8:30 pm ET). Both teams are 1 & 1. Dallas lost their last game to Denver 42 -17. The Cards won a squeaker in Indy 16 - 13. Dallas (like in the old days) was the darling of preseason media. Cards have done little to impress.
Opponent's Last Game
Dallas got thumped by the Broncs 42 - 17, but the numbers are somewhat misleading - Denver scored once in the first quarter to open up a 7-0 lead. But Dallas bounced back in the second quarter to keep things fairly close at halftime - 21 - 10.
But Denver busted things wide open building a 35 - 10 lead by the end of the 3rd quarter and breezed home a winner. There were a handful of plays that, had they gone differently, might have altered the outcome of the game.
Dallas received. TB on KO. 3 & out. Punt out of bounds at Denver 22. Passes of 27-yds (to D Thomas) and E Sanders (+25 yds) set up a 10-yd TD pass to Sanders over the middle. Denver 7 - Dallas 0.
Dallas moved from its 25 yd line to its 40 & punted. Punt O-O-B at Bronco 6. They moved to the Dallas 31 in 9 plays but McManus was wide left from 49-yds. Dallas took over on its own 39 and ((after a weather delay) moved to the Denver 39 to end the quarter.
First Quarter Score: Denver 7 - Dallas 0
Four plays into the quarter, Simeon was sacked by Lawrence for a 16-yd loss and fumbled. Dallas (M Collins) recovered at the Denver 3. Two plays later, Prescott hit Bryant for a 3 yd TD. Denver 7 - Dallas 7.
Denver returned the KO to its own 18 and Siemian took them on a 14-yd TD drive capped by a 16-yd TD completion over the short-middle. Denver 14 - Dallas 7.
TB on KO. An offensive PI call contributed to a Dallas punt from its own 21. 21-yd punt return gave Denver the ball on the Bronco 49. 8 plays later, Siemian hit Sanders for a 6-yd TD. (Longest play of the drive was just 9-yds). Denver 21 - Dallas 7.
1:38 till the half. TB on KO. Dallas moved to the Denver 38 where, with 0:06 on the clock, Bailey was good from 56 yards!!! Denver 21 - Dallas 10.
1st Half Score: Denver 21 - Dallas 10
(They say the opening second-half possession can be a tone-setter). Denver received and marched to the Dallas 2 in 14 plays. Siemian then hit V Green for a 2 yd TD. Denver 28 - Dallas 10.
(TB on the KO) - On the 5th play of the Dallas possession, Prescott's pass for Bryant was picked off and returned to the Dallas 23. Two plays later, Anderson ran off left tackle for a 23-yd TD.Denver 35 - Dallas 10.
TB on KO. Dallas mounted an 11 play drive only to have it stopped on downs at the Bronco 42. But on the 1st play of the Denver possession, Siemian's pass for Thomas was picked off by J Lewis. Dallas ball at the Bronco 39. They moved to the Denver 30 in 6 plays as the quarter ended.
Third Quarter Score: Denver 35 - Dallas 10
Two plays into the quarter, Prescott hit Whitten for a 28-yd TD. Denver 35 - Dallas 17.
The two teams exchanged 3 & outs. Denver returned punt (net a blocking penalty) at their own 6 yd line. 8 plays later (mostly runs by Anderson and Charles), they punted. O-O-B at the Dallas 35. 6:13 on the clock. Dallas managed to drive to the Denver 14, but had to turn the ball over on downs at the Denver 7.
3:46 to go. Denver ran it 3 times and punted. Punt returned to Denver 37. 3:22 left. Dallas moved to the Denver 6 in 8 plays but Prescott threw a Pick 6 (by Talib) on the 9th. Denver 42 - Dallas 17.
Two plays later, game over.
Final Score: Denver 42 - Dallas 17.
Key Game Stats
Team Stats to Date
Prescott was 30 of 50 - 238 yds, 2 TD's and 2 interceptions.
Elliott ran for 8 yds and 0 TD's on 9 carries. (Denver held Dallas to 40 yds on the ground).
Whitten caught 10 passes for 97 yds and a TD..Bryan caught 7 for 59 yds and a TD. Beasely, T Williams and Elliott had 4 catches each.
Defensively, J Smith led in tackles with 10 followed by Lee (9), A Brown (7), Lawrence (7) and J Lewis (6)
Lawrence was credited with 2 sacks and a forced fumble.
Miller sacked Prescott twice
Dallas converted 3 of 14 3rd downs (21%) while Denver was 9 of 15 (60%)
Denver held Dallas to 2.9 yds per rushing play (Denver runners racked up a 4.6 ypc rushing percentage).
Dallas Net Punting average was 41.8
Dallas penalized 8 times So was Denver).
Dallas was 1 for 3 (33%) in the Red Zone (Denver was 4 for 4 (100%)
Turnover Ratio: Even. Dallas didn't fumble. Denver lost one of two. Dallas was picked off once. Denver wasn't picked off.
Offensive Yards - Dallas 660 / Cards 697
Passing Yards - Dallas 506/ Cards 600
Rushing Yards - Dallas 169/ Cards 128
Offensive Yards Allowed - Dallas 613 /Cards 633
Rushing Yards Allowed - Dallas 213 / Cards 158
Total Passing Yards Allowed - Dallas 451 / Cards 508
Sacks - Dallas 5 / Cards 5
Sacks Allowed - Dallas 3 / Cards 5
Field Goals - Dallas 5/5 / Cards 4/6
Time of Possession - Dallas 30:12/ Cards 33:14
Turnover Ratio - Dallas +1 / Cards -3
Key Player Stats
Passing: Dallas - Prescott: 89 att for 506 yds (5.7per att), 2 Ints, 3 TD's. Palmer 46 of 84 for 600 yds (7.1 yds/att), 2 TD's 4 Ints. 65.6 Rating
Rushing: Dallas - Elliott: 33 att for 112 yds (3.4 yds /att), 0 TD's. Arizona - C Johnson: 44 yds on 11 carries (4.0/att) . 0 TD's. K Williams: 32 yds on 14 carries (2.3 yd/att).
Receiving: Dallas - Whitten: 17 Rec for 156 yds (9.2 yds per catch) 2 TD's. T. Williams: 10 Rec for 85 yds (8.5 yds/catch.). 0 TD's. Bryant: 9 catches for 102 yds (11.3/catch), 0 TD's, 1 TD. Elliott: 9 catches for 50 yds (5.6 yds/catch). Arizona: Nelson: 10 catches for 163 yds (16.3 ypr), 2 TD's. Fitzgerald: 9 catches for 95 yds (10.6 ypc). 0 TD's.
Field Goals - Bailey is 5 for 5. Dawson is 4 for 6.
Punting - Dallas: Jones' gross yardage is 43.1 (Compared to 44.2 for opponents). Cards: Lee is 46.2 (compared to 41.0 for opponents).
Punt Returns -Dallas: 2 returns for 19 yds (Compared to 3 returns for 21 yds by opponents). Cards: K Williams returned 2 punts(3.0 ypr). (Opponents returned 7 punts (10.1ypr)
Kickoff Returns - Dallas: Switzer: 2 returns for 42 yds (21/ypr (compared to 22.3 ypr for opponents). Cards: K Williams: 4 returns for 81 yds (20.3 ypr compared to opponents' 21.3 ypr)
Tackles - Dallas: Lee (17), J Smith (17), Lawrence (12), Heath (9). Cards: Branch 18), Dansby (17), Reddick (15), Bethe (11), l C Jones (10)
Sacks - Dallas: 5 (vs. opponents' 3) - Lawrence (40, Tapper (1). Cards: 5 (vs. opponents' 5)
Interceptions - Dallas: 2 Picks (vs. Oponents' 2): A Brown (1), J Lewis (1). Cards: 2 picks (vs. opponents' 4).
WR1...88 Bryant........19 Butler
TE......82 Whitten.......84 Hanna..........87 Swaim
LT.......77 T Smith
LG ..79 C Green......64 J Cooper
OC .72 Frederick.....73 Looney
RG.....70 Z Martin......75 Bell
RT .71 L Collins
WR2 .83 T Williams...85 N Brown
QB ....04 Prescott......17 K Moore.......07 C Rush
RB ....21 E Elliott........20 McFadden...46 A Morris.....45 R Smith
FB......41 K Smith
WR.....11 Beasely.....10 Switzer
LDE 97 Mauro..........72 Pierre.............94 X Williams
DT 98 Peters (A).....95 Gunter
DT 92 Rucker.........90 Nkemdiche
SLB 55 C Jones........96 K Martin
ILB 20 Bucannon....43 Reddick
ILB 56 Dansby........57 Bynes
WLB 44 Golden
LCB 21 Peterson.....25 T Williams
RCB 28 Bethel.........,26 B Williams
SS 41 Bethea.........27 Branch
FS 32 Mathieu ......36 Baker
Matchup: Dallas Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Dallas had no glaring weaknesses - Prescott (who had impressive rookie year), behind an OL populated by T Smith, Frederick, Z Martina and L Collins, throwing to a dynamic triangle consising of Bryant, Whitten and Elliott.
Card pass defense is known for making the occasional big play, but still has communications problems - especially among the "back 7" covering short and intermediate routes. Cardinal edge rushers (C Jones and Golden) are as good as it gets. Front four less so (thus far, they haven't applied that much pressure up the middle, kept their hands up and gotten in the QB's face.
At ILB, Dansby seems a half-step late, and top rookie standout, Reddick is still learning the position. Cards may get $ LB (Bucannon) back this week (impact not yet known).
Peterson continues to lock down one corner. Bethel has held up surprisingly well at the other corner. (Bethel's backup, Brandon Wiliams, still has a way to go. Bethea and Branch are experienced safeties but seem a half-step late on too many balls. The Badger is slowly rounding into his rookie form. Baker is a deluxe hitter with a bright future.
Whitten had 10 catches vs. Denver (Scary). Keep an eye on Switzer. Dallas tackles (T Smith and L Collins) had a rough time containing Denver's elite edge rushers.
Key Matchups: Whitten vs. T Branch. Elliott vs. Mathieu. Bryant vs. Peterson. T Smith and L Collins vs. C Jones and Golden vs. (Mathieu or Bucannon). OL vs. C Jones, Golden, Nkemdiche. Graham vs. Jefferson or Bucannon. Peterson vs. Baldwin.
Matchup: Dallas Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
Surprise! Zeke Elliott's suspension doesn't start yet. Last week, the rust showed - he only gained 8 yards on 9 carries. Don't expect Scott Scott Linehan to allow that to continue. Dallas has a very good run-blocking.
The Cowboy run-offense goes up against a Cardinal defense that in recent years has been, by and large, stingy against the run, but also prone to the occasional relapses that permitted the Frank Gores and Marshawn Lynches (and T Cohen?) of the world to rack up big-time ground yardage. Pressure will be on the Cardinal ILB's (Dansby Reddick and Bucannon) to shut down Elliott. Cardinal interior lineman will need to play stout this week.
And, oh yeah, we don't want to let Prescott's legs beat us.
Key Matchup: Elliott vs. Mathieu or Reddick. Prescott vs. Golden or C Jones. Green Frederick and Martin vs. Cardinal Front 3 Rotation.
WR1 11 Fitzgerald......14 Nelson.....16 C Williams
LT 74 Humphries.....73 Wetzel
LG 76 Iupati.............75 Boone
C 53 Shipley...........62 Munyer
RG 70 Boehm..
RT........68 Veldheer........69 Holden
TE .87 Niklas............80 Momah
WR2 .13 Ja Brown......12 Jo Brown.....10 Golden
QB 03 Palmer* ........05 Stanton.....07 Gabbert
RB 33 K Williams.....38 Ellington.....23 C Jphnson.....35 Penny.....37 Foster
TE 84 Gresham ......
LDE......90 Lawrence.....93 Mayowa.....99 Tapper
DT........96 M Collins......xx Price
RDE.....98 Crawford.....97 Charlton
SLB.....57 D Wilson......51 Wilber
MLB.....59 Hitchens.....54 J Smith
WLB.....50 Lee.............52 Durant........56 J Elliott
LCB.....24 Carroll.........23 Benwikere
RCB.....32 Scandrick...33 Awuzie
SS........38 Heath.........35 K Frazier
FS....... 31 B Jones......25 X Woods
Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Dallas Pass Defense
Carson Palmer had a bad hair day in Indy. (Well..er...not Palmer all by himself - he was under a constant pass rush and his receivers dropped more passes than they caught - well, at least for the first three quarters of the game. But some of it was on Carson - lack of accuracy/poor ball placement and poor decisions/throwing into double coverage etc.
Palmer was operating behind a makeshift, injury-ridden OL that helped set the table for a colllapse in pass pro and stress on Palmer's pocket-presence. Humphries and Iupati were out (& figure to remain out vs. Dallas). Instead of Humphries and Iupati holding down the fort on the left side, Card fans were treated to (sounds like a winery) Wetzel & Boone.
With John Brown out (& likely to be out again this week), Palmer had to rely mainly on Fitz, Jaron Brown to catch the football. Last week, we sighed "oh oh!" when Ja Brown went down with what looked like a serious early in the Indy game, but Brown returned and made arguably the 2nd half catch that turned the game around. Nelson (who had ball-catching issues throughout preseason) appeared to regain his sea-legs last week and redeemed a TD-nullifying out-of-the-end-zone catch with a clutch-catch in the end zone to set up our win.
(I've got to admit that I know less about Dallas defensive personnel than I have in four decades). It's early, but thus far, Dallas has received pass pressure support mainly from LDE Lawrence and WLB Sean Lee. At CB Scandrick is a reliable veteran. Don't know much about Carroll. Awuzie and X Woods have caught my eye.
Card receiver group figures to remain FItz (the slot guy) , Nelson (the speed guy) and Ja Brown (the physical guy) with Golden and C Williams as backups and John Brown still injured. Look for BA to give an increasing number of shots to Golden and Williams (who could provide the physical presence missing from the current Cardinal receiving group).
Key Matchups: Fitz vs. Scandrick. Ja Brown vs. Carroll. Nelson vs. Awuzie. Gresham vs. B Jones. Lawrence vs. Wetzel. Lee vs. Veldheer.
Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Dallas Run Defense
Cardinals lost bell cow David Johnson in opener in Detroit. Backups K Williams and A Ellington did not step in and pick up the slack. But recently cut RB Chris Johnson was re-signed and racked up 44-yards in 11 carries in Indy. The issue with CJ2K is whether age had caught up with him, whether he was "rusty", had he had lost any of his mojo and/or he had lost any of his burst. He looked surprisingly peppy vs. the Colts.
Top Dallas tacklers are: Lawrence, Lee, Heath and Jaylen Smith. Heath is the only one of the four who's not an edge-guy, so I'm thinking - pound it between the tackles. If the Cards decide to pound it inside, don't be surprised if they give Penny a pitch.
Key Matchups: CJ2K vs. Lee, Lawrence or J Smith. Penny vs. Heath.
K 05 Bailey
P 06 C Jones
H 06 C Jones
LS .91 La Douceur
KR 10 Switzer
PR 10 Switzer
K 04 Dawson
P 02 Lee
H 02 Lee
LS 46 Brewer
KR 33 K Williams
PR 33 K Williams
Matchup: Dallas Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
Dallas - Bailey's their kicker, C Jones is their punter. (Nothing outstanding - good or bad - about either). Switzer is dangerous rerturning punts or kicks.
Dawson's 2 shanked FG's are more embarrassing than a concern. Lee's net punting yardage is outstanding. Nothing special about KW - look for Golden to get more touches as the season progresses
Key matchups: Bethel vs. Bailey
Dallas - HC Jason Garrett. OC Scott Linehan. DC Rod Marinelli. ST Rich Bisaccia. Garrett has earned his head coaching spurs and has been a fixture in Dallas for several years. LInehan and Marinelli are highly respected offensive and defensive minds.
Cards - This is Coach Arians' toughest year - mainly because last season was his worst year as a Cardinal HC and there's always the lingering question: "Is this a trend?"BA prides himself in being "old school", but questions are beginning to pop up about his being stubborn or "overly loyal."(Methinks the media and hard-core fans think too much).
Cards - John Brown, Humphries, Iupati expected to be out. Bucannon expected back.
Dallas - TBD
How to Beat Dallas
Interesting - a few key plays turned around the Card - Indy game. a few key plays tilted the field against Dallas and toward Denver. The high Denver-Dallas score was misleading.
Which means: Play solid football. Avoid mistakes. Play them physically "even" and be ready to cash in on a half-dozen or so big plays.
More specifically - Contain Whittson. Control Elliott. Neutralize Bryant. Attack Dallas corners with Fitz, JJ and Ja Brown. Look to CJ2K to break at least one long-gainer.
This may be a surprisingly even game, with a few breaks determining the outcome. Some teams are expert at winning these sorts of games. Other teams fold under the pressure. This game could turn out to be one more in a long line of "teaching events." Key will be to hang in there, play hard, stay poised and be opportunistic.