FRISCO, Texas – Here are my two biggest keys to this Week 4 matchup against the Lions.
Dallas Cowboys Win If:
The focus all week has been on the Cowboys' offense and what changes need to take place in order to allow it to be more productive. We can all point the finger at the coaching staff or the quarterback, wide receivers or offensive line. The problem is that all of these areas at one time or another have made things difficult for them to generate a consistent attack
Take the game last week. Scott Linehan calls a play to hand the ball to Ezekiel Elliott to pick up a first down. It's never a bad idea to put the ball in Elliott's hands in those situations. I'd wager that 90 percent of the time you make that call, you're picking up a first down. It's the other 10 percent where the unknown happens -- fumbled snap, penalty or a missed assignment. In this particular case it was a missed blocking assignment by a veteran offensive line.
As we continue to focus on the physical errors, the mental ones that have been just as costly. Missed assignments, lack of field awareness or simply reading the defense correctly have all led to problems. The goal is to always play a perfect game on both sides of the ball, but that starts with knowing what to do first.
Dallas is good enough to beat the Lions just on talent alone, but when they help the opponent like they did last week in Seattle, then all bets are off. The Cowboys don't need to help the Lions and by that I mean they need to play smart offensively. No mental errors. Take care of that and you take care of the Lions.
Detroit Lions Win If:
Opponents are running the ball more against the Lions than they are completing passes. The Lions through three games have faced 83 rushes while only allowing a league-best 48 completions. What has been troubling for the Lions is that opponents have had four runs already this season that have gone for an average of 44 yards a carry. Two of those carries have also resulted in touchdowns.
If the Cowboys offensively have an area where they can hang their hat on, it is their ability to move the ball on the ground. The Lions defensively understand this and no question are preparing for it. Last week against the Patriots, Glover Quinn spent quite a bit of time down in the box and he was able to make a few tackles to help. The previous week against the 49ers, they struggled when they had to deal with pullers and the ball would get out on the edge. The 49ers did a nice job of sealing things to the inside, which provided the necessary room on the outside.
The Lions had a hard time when they got stretched out defensively. They haven't faced a running back this season that is as talented as Ezekiel Elliott, so the game plan is pretty simple: run the ball with success and move the chains to keep Matthew Stafford off the field.
For the Lions to win they can't let that happen. They need to get their defense off the field and take that chance that Matthew Stafford and the offense can put up some points to secure the victory.