As noted in the obituary/hierarchy post this week, this is a huge game for the Cowboys. They’re in Baltimore this week, followed by a flight home, then right back to the East Coast against a bad Carolina team. Then they get the Giants at home, followed by consecutive trips to Atlanta and Philly. 4 road games in a 5 week span, against 4 good teams Ouch.
After their big Week 1 win in NJ, the Cowboys had a great opportunity to build up some equity for this tough stretch. They played a Seattle team that they should have handled and they had a couple home games, one against a cupcake (the Bucs), and one against a sneaky good team in the Bears. They came away from that 3 game stretch 1-2. Big missed opportunity. You never want a non-conference game to mean so much early in the season, but I think that this road game in Baltimore is a very pivotal one in the Cowboys season. Onto some random notes heading into this matchup:
• The Ravens’ starting CBs are Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams. I’ll bet that whoever the announcers are in the Ravens-Cowboys game, they will rave about Webb, calling him “one of the new leaders on this Ravens team.” Every other announcer has done it so far this year, so I expect them to watch those previous broadcasts and follow suit. Webb is a very good player, but the hype surrounding him is getting a little out of hand. Williams, meanwhile, is a Cortland Finnegan wannabe, minus the talent. He got into a fight in all 3 of the Ravens’ first 3 games. Going off of memory, the first one (I believe) was a fight with AJ Green. The second was a dustup with DeSean Jackson, in which Jackson threw a punch, and could have been ejected. Both players were fined that week. The third was this boxing match with Julian Edelman:
Comically, the replacement officials did not throw a flag on that. The Patriots targeted Williams a staggering 13 times. They completed 9 passes on him for 157 yards. Williams bounced back by picking off passes in each of the next two games. Still, the Cowboys need to attack Williams, early and often. He’s the weak link in the Ravens’ secondary, and a dumb player. They must also be careful not to engage with his nonsense. If Tony Romo can get adequate attention, either Dez Bryant or Miles Austin could have a big day.
• One thing that surprised me in the Week 1 Ravens-Bengals game was that the Bengals were able to run the ball very successfully before that game got out of hand. The player that the Bengals decided to attack was DE Pernell McPhee, who appears to not hold up so well against double-teams. Here’s the Bengals doubling McPhee:
…and opening up a monster hole when McPhee can’t anchor:
Here’s McPhee again (circled), later in the game:
He’s blown off the ball in comical fashion, opening up another wide lane for the RB:
That’s where the Ravens give up the most yards in the run game:
Unfortunately for Dallas, they haven’t had much success running behind their RG-RT this season:
The Bengals’ rushing numbers in that game:
Since that game, the Ravens have been much better against the run. Here is what they’ve done against the run since:
And then the Chiefs had big numbers against Baltimore in the run game, but really only because they didn’t try to throw because of their awful QB situation, instead choosing to run the ball 51 times. (Keep in mind they only scored 6 points):
The great Bob Sturm broke down the Cowboys’ difficulties in the run game. Good stuff. As did the great Rafael Vela. Also good stuff. I’m not sure this is the week the Cowboys will break out of that funk.
• DeMarcus Ware needs to be on alert this week. I’ve talked in the past about his penchant for jumping offsides. He was offsides 8 times in 2011 and 4 times so far in 4 games this season. The Ravens LOOOOOVE running quick counts and hard counts out of their hurry up offense. Ware must be careful not to jump and give the Ravens free opportunities to attack down the field to Torrey Smith.
• The Cowboys are of course coming off their bye, and should be well rested. However, the Ravens seem to be the healthier team. Nothing major here, but here’s the full injury report: