So what are the keys to beating Dallas this week? Easy, use the Jacksonville game as a blue print and we should have no problem. Let me elaborate.
Let's take a closer look at the Cowboys win over the Giants this past Monday night. My initial thoughts were, "how does a team finish a game with a +5 turnover differential and only win by 5 points?" Drive summaries tell the tale, and it turns out the Cowboys seem to be a fairly inconsistent team (at least through the first week). Dallas had 12 total drives. Of those 12 drives, only three were quality drives - that is, scoring drives of at least 50 yards. The first quality drive came early in the second quarter. Dallas drove 60 yards on the Giants defense before stalling at the Giants 20. 3 points tacked on the board, and a missed opportunity on the edge of the red zone. The second quality drive came at the end of the second quarter when the Cowboys drove 71 yards, Tony Romo connected to Jason Witten on a 15 yard TD pass. The final quality drive barely counts (53 yards), a field goal from 48 yards out early in the fourth.
The only other offensive scoring drives came off of Giant turnovers - Manning's first intercepted pass lead to a three and out resulting in a Dallas field goal, and a Trumaine McBride muffed punt lead to a two play Cowboys touchdown drive. A fumble recovery for a touchdown and a Manning pick six to our old buddy Brandon Carr accounts for the rest of the Cowboys points.
I now understand how a +5 turnover differential results in a 5 point win.
I know you can't judge a team entirely off of one game, but hey that's all we have to work with here. Dallas was 50% in the red zone Monday, only entering the red zone four times - two of those possessions found the team already in the red zone due to turnovers.
The team finished with 22 first downs (17 passing, 3 running, 2 from penalties), 244 passing yards, 87 rushing yards, 5 - 15 on third downs, 5 penalties and 1 turnover.
What does this tell us? Glad you asked.
The Cowboys are far from a complete team. Their reliance on Romo comes as no surprise, his ability to extend a play is excellent but that doesn't necessarily translate into offensive efficiency. The Big D's o-line isn't exactly superior, which is another factor when looking at their low third down conversion rate and low rushing totals. The biggest sign of inconsistency came from their inability to capitalize off of turnovers. Manning's first pick was inside the red zone and Dallas settled for a field goal after three plays. After the first Giant fumble, the Cowboys went three and out. The next Manning interception was followed by a 38 yard drive that resulted in a Romo interception. After a muffed punt in the third, Dallas scored a touchdown. The other two Giant turnovers resulted in defensive touchdowns.
Not many times are you handed a game in the NFL, but apparently the Giants decided to wait several years to give the Cowboys a house warming gift. The Giants dominated nearly every facet of the game, but as we well know turnovers are killer - especially six of them.
So what does this mean for KC? Another good question you ask.
The Chiefs do not need to dominate the Cowboys like they did the Jags on defense. This game doesn't rest solely on Houston and Co. If KC can handle the Cowboys offense the same way the Giants did, mainly limiting big plays, the Chiefs shouldn't have much of a problem. The real pressure lies on the Chiefs offense, specifically Alex Smith. The Chiefs need to follow the offensive (yes offensive) and special teams blue print of last week - good field position, red zone efficiency, and most importantly no turnovers. The Chiefs have yet to prove they can drive the length of the field, but last Sunday they really didn't need to. While another dominant showing on defense would be amazing - and I know we are all expecting more of the same - efficient offense and ball control will win the game.