FRISCO, Texas – Here are my two big keys about this matchup against the Indianapolis Colts. Whoever executes these factors better is likely going to get a win on Sunday afternoon.
Dallas Cowboys Win If:
Offensively, the Indianapolis Colts are not like any team the Dallas Cowboys have faced this season. I can't recall a unit that is as patient as the Colts are when they have the ball.
Their philosophy is the old adage: "we'll take what the defense gives us." Andrew Luck is committed to taking what the coverage gives him, which can be very frustrating for a defense to deal with. If you play zone coverage against him, there is an outstanding chance that he's going to throw the ball underneath to Eric Ebron, Ryan Grant or Chester Rogers for a respectable gain in order to set up the next down. They operate in this manor the entire drive, and just when they have you frustrated with the systematic way they're moving the ball, they hit you with a deep shot down the field to T.Y. Hilton. It's a difficult offense to play due to how consistent they are with the execution of it.
I wish it was as simple as pressuring Andrew Luck, but that in itself is difficult as well. This offensive line, which was once a disaster, is now a legitimate strength.
If the Cowboys are going to win this game, I believe their defense is going to have to stay patient and not get frustrated. The Eagles did a nice job of this earlier in the season by creating a little pressure on Andrew Luck and also tackling well. Rally to the ball -- but more importantly, finish when you get there.
Indianapolis Colts Win If:
The Dallas Cowboys, offensively, are the most balanced team the Colts have faced all season.
Matt Eberflus is going to have his hands full trying to formulate a game plan that not only handles Ezekiel Elliott, but a passing game which has found its stride with Amari Cooper in the mix. There was a time earlier in the season where the Cowboys were so run-dependent that defensive coordinators just had to focus on one area. That's no longer the case and Eberflus realizes that.
Eberflus' scheme, in principle, is as same as the one Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard use -- but the noticeable difference is in the way he uses his blitz packages. With my own eyes, you can see the way Eberflus uses his defensive backs as weapons to attack opposing offenses. With Marinelli you would see an occasional slot blitz as part of the pressure package, but with Eberflus it's not only cornerbacks rushing, but you will get a safety as well.
Eberflus is gambling that he can get his rush home before your quarterback can get the ball off. For the Colts to win this game, Eberflus is going to have to force this offensive line, tight ends and running backs to be solid in pass protection. He has defenders that can rush the passer, but his ace in the hole is these extra defensive backs he uses as blitzers.
If the Cowboys struggle to handle those extra rushers, then it could be a long day attempting to throw the ball in key situations.