I know you can't necessarily call the second game of the season a must win game, but this one feels pretty close. Lose and the Cowboys would drop to 0-2 heading to Houston next week. Win and they can even their record and give themselves a shot at heading into the bye week at 2-1. And I don't even want to start talking about how rare it is for a team to start 0-2 and then make the playoffs. So the Cowboys have to find a way to win this game. Here is what I think needs to happen.
1. Run the ball. The Cowboys were pretty successful running the ball last week but they never fully committed to the run. The easiest way to work offensive linemen back into the flow of the game is to let them run block. By running the ball you allow your linemen to initiate contact and control the action as opposed to reacting to pass rushers. Marc Colombo and Kyle Kosier are sure to be rusty coming off of injuries. And the passing game becomes simple when you can get the defense to bite on run fakes for play action passes.
2. Force some turnovers. This feels like the same problem as last year all over again for the defense. They do a great job preventing the opposition from scoring but they rarely create game changing plays. Cutler will undoubtedly throw some balls into coverage and give the Cowboys a chance at interceptions. I want to see three or more turnovers from the defense.
3. Get the ball in the end zone. David Buehler looked a lot like Nick Folk last year. The offense drove the ball all the way down the field only to be disappointed as they came away empty on a missed field goal last week. The easiest remedy for a shaky kicker is to take the game out of his hands. The offense needs to find the end zone early and often.
4. Get Felix Jones involved in the offense. Although I did like the way the Cowboys involved Dez Bryant last week I think they didn't take advantage of the explosiveness of Felix Jones as much as they should have. A few of the forced throws to Dez could have been more plays for Felix Jones. Felix should have around 15 touches on offense. Every time he gets the ball in his hands the Cowboys have a shot at a touchdown.
5. Don't forget about Jason Witten. I know Witten had to stay in and help block on more passing plays than usual last week due to the problems on the offensive line. Tony Romo needs his most trusted receiver out in patterns more often this week. That should help the Cowboys convert more 3rd downs to extend drives.
6. Hit Jay Cutler. One thing that the Mike Martz offense allows for is pressure on the quarterback. Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer should see a lot of one on one matchup this week and they need to put pressure on Jay Cutler. Like I mentioned earlier, Cutler turns the ball over a lot. The chances of that happening increase exponentially when he has pressure in his face.
I will be shocked if the Cowboys don't win this game. I just can't picture a team that is so talented dropping to 0-2. I think the Cowboys will win this game pretty easily. I predict a 31-17 victory for the Cowboys.