Two teams that thought their offense would carry them this season are figuring it out it’s not that simple. Both the Dallas Cowboys and the Chicago Bears have mostly their defense to thank for when looking at their 2-1 records, heading into their Monday Night Football clash.
Defense was what gave the Bears their win over the Cowboys when the two teams last met at Dallas, with Chicago winning 27-20, holding the Cowboys to only 36 yards on the ground while Tony Romo was intercepted twice. Nearly a month into the 2012 season, Romo has only passed for four touchdowns, while keeping his interception numbers below critical level, currently at 3.
And with two teams that are very good at getting to the quarterback or at least containing him, it’ll be who gets better protection and manages to break out of mediocrity, which has been the most obvious part about both teams’ games this season. The Cowboys have 7 sacks so far in the first three games, four of them by DeMarcus Ware, who’ll be facing off against J’Marcus Webb, who will need some TE help on one of the best pass rushers in the NFL.
The Bears don’t even need blitzes to get the job done. They’re third in the NFL with 14 sacks so far, mostly using cover schemes while letting their front four, with Israel Idonije and Julius Peppers on the wings, Henry Melton and Matt Toeaina in the middle, do most of the damage. The Cowboys have their share of offensive line problems, mostly with their tackles Doug Free and Tyron Smith. Smith was actually shifted into that position, and still needs time (or simply a different spot) to become a better blocker.
Dallas are excellent against the pass, thanks to their pass rushing and the improved coverage with some different sets, allowing only 137 passing yards per game so far. They play a three corner set, Brandon Carr shifted to Safety and Maurice Claiborne pairing up with Mike Jenkins at corner, this time facing the big and physical Brandon Marshall (214 yards, 16 receptions, 1 TD) and Alshon Jeffery.
Romo has a bit more weapon to work with on his air attack, but is having problems because Jason Witten still isn’t at 100%, and not having a quick throw to his favorite target available is causing him to hold on to the ball a bit too much, and against a very aggressive front four like the Bears’, this might be a recipe for turnovers. The Cowboys need to make life hard for the Bears and start to get some yards on the ground, and DeMarco Murray needs to have a big day, more than the 70.1 yards he’s averaging so far.
Better team? Probably the Cowboys, just by a bit. They have a quarterback who’s more likely to come up with one more big play than Jay Cutler. In a game with two very good defenses, that extra gear and extra play should decide a close contest in Dallas.