IRVING, Texas – Stop the run and run the ball.
It doesn't matter what level or league, all football coaches typically stress those two areas when it comes to agendas within a particular game.
If you can establish the run, you'll be balanced. If you can stop the run, you'll prevent the opposition from having that balance. Sounds simple enough.
This Sunday in Kansas City, the Cowboys will try to win both sides of the running game once again, but it won't be easy against a Chiefs team that has managed to rush it effectively in recent history, despite some lopsided scores.
Although the Chiefs went 2-14 last year, they still ran it enough for Jamaal Charles to rack up 1,509 yards, despite having 10 double-digit losses in 2012.
The Chiefs ranked fifth in the NFL last year in rushing, totaling 149.7 yards per game, the highest among all non-playoff teams.
Now, with Andy Reid on the sidelines and Alex Smith at quarterback, the people in Kansas City are probably the first ones to shout that things are different this year. They probably want nothing to do with last season. The fact they can already duplicate last year's win total with a victory over the Cowboys signals such a change.
But you can bet the offensive game plan to run the ball at will hasn't altered much. Smith is just with the second NFL team of his eight-year career, but he's playing for his eighth different offensive coordinator. He's not considered a throw-it-all-over-the-field type of quarterback. So make no mistake, the Chiefs will once again enter Sunday's game with the mindset to run the football early and often.
If anything, the Cowboys will be ready for it.
"Well, they have a good running game. Of course, the running back is outstanding," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said of Charles. "They feature him a lot of different ways. It is a power running game, but it's a running game that gets him out in space. And he's really good at it."
Last week against the Jaguars, Charles ran the ball 16 times for 77 yards. But they're also working in a pair of youngsters in former Texas A&M standout Cyrus Gray and Knile Davis, a third-round pick this year from Arkansas.
"They do a lot of different things in the running game," Garrett said. "They've allocated a lot of resources in their organization to their offensive line. A lot of high picks there. [embedded_ad]
The Chiefs have two first-round selections along their offensive line, including the No. 1 overall pick in 2013, Central Michigan's Eric Fisher, who starts at right tackle. The Chiefs drafted left tackle Brandon Albert in the first round in 2008.
But the interior of the line were all early-round picks, too. Kansas City drafted guard Jeff Allen in the second round in 2012 and center Rodney Hudson in the second in 2011. Guard Jon Asamoah was a third-round pick in 2010.
That should be quite a challenge for the Cowboys defense, which enters its second game in a 4-3 scheme.
The Cowboys have had some injury issues up front, starting in camp with Jay Ratliff having a setback with his groin injury. That problem landed him on PUP (Physically Unable to Perform), forcing him to miss at least the first six games. In the middle, Jason Hatcher and Nick Hayden have formed a solid duo, with journeyman veteran Landon Cohen as the main backup.
Last week against the Giants, the Cowboys yielded only 50 yards rushing on 14 attempts. Two of those carries resulted in lost fumbles by Giants tailback David Wilson, who was eventually benched and replaced by Da'Rel Scott. Hayden jarred one of the fumbles loose in the second quarter.
"I thought it was a great start for us," Hatcher said of the Week 1 win. "But we know it's going to be tougher. We're going to face some really good (running backs), so we've got to be ready."
One of those backs is on deck Sunday in Kansas City.