While a lot of focus has been on the Cowboys offense, specifically Tony Romo, there will be a lot of pressure put on the Cowboys defense this Sunday when they head to New England. It is no secret that the Patriots have a lot of weapons, not the least of which is quarterback Tom Brady.
Brady is leading the number one rated offense in the NFL through 5 weeks of the season. The Patriots are averaging 495 yards per game and are scoring at a rate of 33 points per contest. The list of weapons is long. Brady has two good tight ends in Gronkowski and Hernandez, with receivers Branch and Welker on the outside. Welker, by himself, has 8 catches a game for, a league leading, 740 yards and 5 touchdowns.
It seems that most teams can shut 2 or 3 of these guys down a game, but it always seems like one steps up to keep things going for the Pats. While Brady has lots of weapons on the outside, it seems that one player is constantly getting overlooked. Runningback BenJarvus Green-Ellis, or the “Law Firm” as some have called him, has quietly been putting in a solid season. Last week against the stingy Jets, Green Ellis had a season high 27 carries for 136 yards and 2 touchdowns. If the Patriots get a consistent running game, who knows how dangerous they can become. They will be looking to get it all working when they host the Cowboys Sunday.
While the Patriots have the top ranked offense, the Cowboys, quietly, have the fourth ranked defense, and the top defense against the run. The Cowboys are giving up just 292 yards per game. Now some will say it is a result of Romo giving the defense a short field, but there is a lot more to it than that. While the defense has been the victims of an inconsistent offense, they have also raised their game substantially under coordinator Rob Ryan.
Ryan has found away to help many of these players discover or regain a level of play the Cowboys thought they had. Cornerback Mike Jenkins and linebacker Sean Lee are great examples. Jenkins was highly criticised last year after having a “meltdown” season on the heals of a Pro Bowl one the year before. This season, he looks a new. While battling injuries, Jenkins has still found a way to put in solid performances in every game this season. With Terrance Newman and Orlando Scandrick expected to play on Sunday, it will be the first time the Cowboys have their entire starting secondary healthy this year.
Sean Lee has come out of nowhere to be one of the best young linebackers in the league. Lee came on strong at the end of last season after missing most of the campaign due to injury. Lee has made tremendous strides despite there being no offseason. Lee leads the team in tackles and would be in the top five in the league if not for the bye week. Not only has he made tackles but he has picked off some passes as well. Lee has shown an ability to be in the right place at the right time, something that he will need to continue this week.
With the defense playing well, they know they have a big test this week. The key will be stopping Tom Brayd. A task DeMarcus Ware took time out after Wednesday’s practice to talk about, “We have to get some pressure on him because the teams that have had success on them have been able to get pressure on him up front.” It is widely thought that the Patriots offensive line is weaker this year, but it hasn’t stopped the team from moving the ball with stellar efficiency.
But as it always seems to be the case with the Patriots, you can’t stop everyone, unless you stop QB Tom Brady. It will take an entire 60 minute, 11-man effort for the Cowboys to do that this week.