By: Russ Goldman
Each week I am hoping to bring a view of the upcoming game from a writer who covers the Patriots opposition, and this week we have Todd Archer who covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.
Todd was generous enough to take some time to answer my questions about Sunday’s game, and it’s always interesting to get some insight from someone who writes about the opposing team.
Here are my “Five Questions About The Upcoming Cowboys Game with Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com”
1. Quarterback Tony Romo certainly has shown the ability to become an elite quarterback. However, his decision making in crucial situations has been an issue this season and in his career. Why do you think he continues to make bad decisions that have caused some losses?
The perception of Romo is not the actual reality. Among active quarterbacks, his fourth-quarter numbers are the best (or at least in the top five) since he’s been a starter. He has made some bad decisions, but he’s also made a lot of good decisions.
To his critics the only big games he’s ever had are the ones he’s lost. But he beat an undefeated Indianapolis team, he’s beaten Philadelphia, and he’s won at New York. When he flops, he does it in spectacular fashion, which is why he carries this perception. He has to understand that taking a sack or throwing it away is a good play. I don’t want to say he’s still learning because he’s started so many games but just about every quarterback has these issues (see Brady vs.Buffalo).
2. New Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan did a real good job against Tom Brady last season when he was with the Cleveland Browns. What kind of factor do you feel his knowledge of knowing how to stop Brady will ultimately have on this game?
I think it’ll help and I think it’ll help that he has better personnel than he had in Cleveland. But the Patriots will be ready for what Ryan has in store for them. So far Ryan has been generic – for him – in terms of the looks he has given and some of that is because of who he has playing for him. He doesn’t need to show all these looks.
He’ll be helped now that he has his top three corners available for the first time this year with Scandrick back from an ankle injury. I don’t believe the Browns sacked Brady last year but they did pressure him. And the offense held the ball for 38 minutes, so that made Ryan look good too.
3. Do you think Jason Witten will be the player on the Dallas offense that the Patriots will need to take away if they expect to slow down the Cowboys?
Absolutely. If you go back to ’07 Belichick’s main target was Witten, not Terrell Owens. Witten had three catches in that game. Look at the San Diego game this year when the Patriots beat up on Antonio Gates. Witten is more than a security blanket for Romo. He is the key figure in the passing game because he opens things up on the outside.
4. On the other side of the ball, would you consider the defensive backfield, the weakness of the Cowboys defense?
Yeah, I would say so. Having the corners healthy will help. To me, Mike Jenkins is playing like he did in ’09 when he went to the Pro Bowl. His confidence is back. Newman looked a little off in the Detroit game so he’s in question.
The Cowboys did not have a sack against the Lions and Stafford had a good day (or good fourth quarter I should say). Getting pressure on Brady is a must and teams don’t get a lot of pressure on him. I believe now more than ever that pressure makes a secondary, not the other way around. If Ware can get to Brady, then the secondary will be better.
5. What is your key match-up for this game?
I know I said Witten makes the passing game go, but if the Patriots put a lot of attention on him, then Miles Austin and Dez Bryant will have to win against the Patriots corners.
If there is a weakness to the NE defense it is the secondary, right? They will not be able to double all three guys. Austin, who is healthy after missing two games, and Bryant are big-play guys and the Patriots defense has struggled allowing big plays in the passing game.
Mr. Archer is predicting a 28-24 Patriots victory. A special thanks to Todd for taking his time to give his thoughts on this weekend’s match-up.