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Key Matchups: Getting thru Sewell in defending run


FRISCO, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys return home on Saturday night to take on the Detroit Lions in what could be a playoff preview between two NFC contenders.

While the fanfare around Jimmy Johnson going into the Ring of Honor will be a big highlight of the night, a few matchups on the field could prove to determine the eventual outcome of a big bounceback opportunity for the Cowboys.

Here are the matchups to keep an eye on as the game progresses during a special night at AT&T Stadium.

DeMarcus Lawrence/Micah Parsons vs. Penei Sewell

With Johnathan Hankins out once again this week with his ankle injury, the run defense is once again a highlight when the Lions offense steps on the field – especially with their talented tandem of David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs.

As a result, it'll be a big challenge for the Cowboys defensive line to hold firm in the running game, and the two defenders that will prove to be most important are DeMarcus Lawrence and Micah Parsons. 

After a rough week against Buffalo in containing the edges in the run game against James Cook, the duo bounced back with a solid effort against Miami in limiting the Dolphins' own rushing attack. This week, they will each see snaps against one of the best run blockers in the NFL in Lions right tackle Penei Sewell. If both can get around Sewell and find success, the Lions will be forced into the pass game where Dallas should have the advantage.

Even in pass rush situations, it will be a tough challenge as Sewell has only allowed 16 pressures and just one sack all season. When he is on the field, it will be increasingly important for the Cowboys edge talents to find some success.

DaRon Bland vs. Amon-Ra St. Brown

Lions third-year receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown is having yet another huge season being a favorite target for Jared Goff, as Dallas' secondary task will be limiting him from having a big game on the road.

St. Brown will move all around the line of scrimmage – lining up in the slot and outside on the boundary – which will force each Cowboys cornerback to line up opposite of him on any specific snap. But when he is lined up opposite of DaRon Bland, there is a fun opportunity for a young-on-young battle between two rising stars in the NFL.

Bland will be able to show his improvements as the season has gone on in handling physical receivers off the line, and the 200-plus-pound St. Brown will give him that challenge.

Terence Steele vs. Aidan Hutchinson

Since allowing four sacks to the Eagles in week nine, Terence Steele has allowed just one sack in the seven games since as he has settled in on the back half of the season in protecting Dak Prescott.

This week, he'll have the task of limiting second-year defensive end Aidan Hutchinson from getting into the backfield both in the pass and run game. Hutchinson has combined for 16 sacks in his first 32 NFL games, but it's been his presence in defending the run that has been what he has been able to hold his hat on.

Steele gets a big opportunity to keep the momentum going this week as the offensive line hopes to be back at full strength.

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