IRVING, Texas –Once again, I've watched all the tape and come to one big conclusion about each team in Sunday's matchup.*I think this Cowboys-Titans tilt will come down to which team can handle the opposition's pass rush better as the game wears on. Cowboys Win If: *
It's been back-to-back weeks for the Cowboys in facing an opponent that runs an odd man front defensively. The major difference from the way the Titans run it as opposed to the 49ers is that you will see far more blitzes from the linebackers.
The 49ers were more willing to try and create pressure with their front four, but the Titans feel like they have to bring more bodies to attack the pocket. Ray Horton cut his teeth working under Dick LeBeau in Pittsburgh and over the years has taken that particular style of defense -- but added a wrinkle or two that has put his own stamp on it.
For many years under Jeff Fisher, the Titans were a 4-3 scheme and remained that under Mike Munchak. What Horton is fighting scheme-wise is that he doesn't have 3-4 personnel, but he is getting by with it. I expect that Horton will come after this Cowboys offense much like he did last week against the Chiefs and attempt to create as many problems as he can in the passing game.
The Titans managed to pick off Alex Smith three times and hold him to 54 percent completions. Against the 49ers, these Cowboys receivers did not win enough of those battles and it caused problems in the game offensively. For the Cowboys to win against the Titans they are going to have to be assignment-sound in those pickups, but more importantly, they are going to have to have their receivers win on the outside and make themselves available for some clean throws to back this defense off.
Titans Win If: [embedded_ad]
Ken Whisenhunt had a simple game plan in the 26-10 victory against the Chiefs last Sunday. He played off a strong defensive effort and offensively called the type of game that allowed Jake Locker not to be put in unmanageable situations down and distance-wise.
What was most surprising about the Titans' gameplan offensively was how they were able to run the ball against a Kansas City defense that is normally rock-solid in that area -- especially at Arrowhead Stadium. You have to give their offensive line a great deal of credit for how they went in there and were able to push the Chiefs around up front.
I believe the game plan for Whisenhunt and the Titans will be to do much of the same – protect Locker from himself and wear this Cowboys front seven out by mixing the run with Shonn Greene, Leon Washington and some Dexter McCluster sprinkled in for an explosive change of pace. If the Titans can build a lead this way, Whisenhunt is more than willing to put this game on the defense and allow them to attack Tony Romo and force him into turnovers.
What Rod Marinelli and this Cowboys defensive staff have to hope for is that Bruce Carter and Rolando McClain plus Jeremy Mincey once again show up with a physical edge to them like they did against San Francisco. If the Titans are able to control the Cowboys' front seven they will win this game.