FRISCO, Texas – It's called 'home-field advantage' for a reason. The game atmosphere typically favors the home team, which, in turn, can create problems for the road team and impact the game in ways outside a team's control.
The Cowboys (2-2) will have to fight those challenges if they want to get their first road win of the season this Sunday night against the Houston Texans (1-3).
"It's a big challenge for us, big focus for us, to play much better on the road," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. "I think it's indicative, probably, of a young team. We've got to grow, though. Those road games are critical games for us. If you want to be still playing in January, you've got to go out and win games on the road. This will be a great test for us."
The Cowboys' two losses this year have come on the road: first at Bank of America Stadium against the Panthers, then at CenturyLink Field while visiting the Seahawks.
The offense in particular has looked different at home than away. In the Cowboys' two wins at AT&T Stadium, they averaged 22.0 points, 356.0 total yards and converted 8 of 22 total third downs. Quarterback Dak Prescott was sacked only three times combined.
In those two losses, the offense averaged 10.5 points, 267.5 total yards and converted 5 of 24 total third downs. Prescott got sacked 11 times.
For this Sunday's road game in Houston, the Cowboys are preparing the best way they know how.
"I always think it challenges you," head coach Jason Garrett said. "You're going to play eight games a year on the road. We've played well on the road before. It's just something we have to do a good job of. It's one of the reasons why we have crowd noise at practice virtually every day regardless of where we're playing the game. It's just important to handle that stuff."
Prescott agrees that crowd noise plays a major factor in road games.
"As long as we communicate and do what we are supposed to do then we can control that to a certain extent," Prescott said. "As long as we can stay ahead of the clock and handle our business to keep the crowd out of it, we'll be fine."
And the best way to silence a crowd is with big plays on the field. The Cowboys will look to lean on those, especially when the run game is involved.
"If you get those at home they're important. If you get them on the road they're important," Linehan said. "We've got to have a combination to have our mindset to establish the run but also to be explosive in both our run and pass. We need that."
The Cowboys hope to leave Houston with a road win, but more importantly, a winning record.