FRISCO, Texas – Last week I was concerned about how the Dallas secondary would handle Washington's passing attack.
The got hit for some big yards, but they got the job done – credit where it's due.
Here's a look at the two biggest keys I think will dictate this primetime game against Chicago:
Dallas Cowboys Win If:
With Jay Cutler out, the game will fall on the shoulders of veteran Brian Hoyer. From watching Hoyer play Monday night against the Eagles, he is far less likely to make a mistake than Cutler. He is extremely calm in the pocket and plays similarly to what we have seen from the backup quarterbacks that we have seen come through here the past two seasons.
Hoyer is going to check the ball down, not take many chances and limit the number of downfield throws he is going to make. Hoyer is the total opposite of what you get in with Cutler, who is as careless as they come. Alshon Jeffery thrives with Cutler at the controls, largely due to the fact that Cutler is willing to throw the ball up -- regardless whether Jeffery is covered or not. Cutler is all about the risk while Hoyer is not.
The Bears have been inconsistent running the ball, and it has put a great deal of pressure on their passing game -- namely their offensive line, which hasn't been great. The Cowboys need to crowd these Bears receivers off the line and force them to fight for space – no free access in routes. Make it difficult for Brian Hoyer to get comfortable by forcing him to make tight window throws and make him be good enough to beat you. Odds are if he has to do that, he will struggle.
Chicago Bears Win If:
The Chicago Bears really struggle to run the ball with any consistency with the exception of first down, where they average an impressive 4.5 yards per carry. It has been on second and third downs where they have struggled the most, only averaging 2.4 yards per carry.
About 63 percent of the time, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains is going to put the ball in the air, and that appears to be the right path to take with weapons like Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White and Eddie Royal. But Loggains has a problem in that his offensive line is last in the league when it comes to pass protection. The Bears have allowed eight sacks through two games, and in studying their games, they could have allowed more.
I expect that we will see Loggains try to protect Brian Hoyer and his offensive line by attempting to run the ball despite their struggles on second and third downs. On defense, the Cowboys allow an alarming 4.7 yards per carry, which puts them near the bottom of the league. Loggains has to take the chance that pounding Jeremy Langford at this defense will lead to some success. From what I've seen from Langford, he is just as talented and physical of a runner as what the Cowboys faced in Rashad Jennings to open the season.
That day, the front seven had a difficult time dealing with Jennings' power, especially in the final minutes of the game. Chicago wins this game if they are able to control the line of scrimmage and keep this Cowboys offense off the field.