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Keys to Victory

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Keys to Victory: Sell Out To Stop Baltimore's Run


Bucky Brooks

The Cowboys are still, somehow, in the middle of the NFC East race although they have just a 3-8 record.

The Ravens are 6-5 but don't have a chance to win their division, but still are very much in the thick of the playoff race.

Let's find out what needs to happen for the Cowboys and Ravens to get the win.

Keys to Victory

The Ravens will win if…

The Ravens are mired in a slump but they remain one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL with an explosive offense and a suffocating, attack-style defense. With Lamar Jackson expected to return to the lineup, the Ravens could lean on a ground and pound approach to wear down the Cowboys' defensive front. In addition, the steady diet of power runs will set up a complementary play-action passing game that features an assortment of seams, deep crossers, and in-breaking routes between the numbers. With Mark Andrews, Marquis Brown, and Dez Bryant capable of finding voids on those throws, the Ravens could produce some much-needed explosive plays in the passing game.

Defensively, the Ravens can control the game with a high-pressure approach that destroys run-blocking schemes and pass protection concepts. Wink Martindale could attack the edges with overload blitzes to exploit the Cowboys' inexperienced offensive tackles. If the Ravens can win on early downs and force a number of long-yardage situations, the Cowboys' turnover-prone offense could have problems on Tuesday night.

The Cowboys will win if…

The Cowboys have discovered their identity but they need to be committed to playing a specific way to win against the Ravens. The offensive game plan should feature a heavy dose of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard running the ball, particularly if the Ravens are missing their big defensive tackles. The Cowboys need to control the flow of the game with a ground and pound approach to protect Andy Dalton and the patchwork offensive line from obvious blitzing downs. Although the Cowboys will need to air it out on a variety of quick-rhythm passes (and an occasional deep shot) to Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup, the running game needs to be the focal point of a conservative game plan designed to keep the game close until the fourth quarterback.

On defense, the Cowboys must sell out to slow down the Ravens' running game. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan needs to commit to utilizing more eight- and nine-man fronts to contain Lamar Jackson and Co. to force the Ravens to throw the ball 30-plus times. If the reigning MVP is forced to pass in obvious passing situations against defenses loaded up to defend the pass, they could bait Jackson in a few miscues and costly turnovers that change the game. The Cowboys need to play a perfect complementary game to knock off the Ravens but it will take tremendous discipline and focus to pull it off.

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