Monday, January 05, 2015

Cowboys Win: Cowboys at Packers Next Sunday

The first round of the NFC playoffs went as I expected and the Cowboys and Panthers both came out winners. They're flawed teams (poor Cowboys D and a bad Panthers offense) and it'd have been easier to have faced the Panthers instead, but it really doesn't matter who they face. This is a really good Packer team (especially at home) and they weren't going to sneak into the Super Bowl.
I hadn't thought of that until I saw this tweet. During the 1993-1995 seasons the Cowboys knocked the Packers out of the playoffs during three playoff games played in Dallas. They also lost to the Cowboys in Dallas during the 1996 season. I too hoped the Packers would have one shot at beating the Cowboys in Green Bay. They kind of had that moment when they finally got host the Cowboys at Lambeau and crushed them 45-17 in November 1997. But the Cowboys haven't played in a lot of playoff games since 1997 and the Packers never got a shot at beating that 90s era Cowboys team during the playoffs. Sure that doesn't mean anything leading up to next Sunday's game, but looking back to the 1990s is a lot closer to home for me than memories of the Ice Bowl.

It's hard to compare how the Lions played in this game against the Cowboys because the Lions have such a good defense and such a mediocre offense. Also the weather conditions will be a lot different (way below freezing) versus inside at Dallas. But the pass protection was interesting.

The game basically ended on a strip-sack of Matthew Stafford, but for most of it the Cowboys had trouble getting to the quarterback despite the fact that the Lions were missing arguably their two best pass protectors on the offensive line (Warford and Waddle) due to injury. The Packers's offensive line has been outstanding this season in pass protection. If the Cowboys can't get to Aaron Rodgers or have to blitz to generate any pressure, he'll slice them up.

On the other hand, the Lions were all over Tony Romo, especially during the early parts of the game. Romo didn't respond too well to the blitz and the Cowboys weren't missing any of their Pro Bowl offensive lineman. The Packers can rush the Cowboys just as well as the Lions did and Packer defensive coordinator Dom Capers certainly knows how to dial up a blitz. It'll be key to keep ineffective pass rushers like Mike Neal secure on the bench and ride the defensive starters harder now that they're into the playoffs.

Overall, the Cowboys have to be drained after rallying from a 13 point second half deficit to beat a tough Lions team. The Packers got the matchup I was expecting (even if I was hoping to face the Panthers instead) and they should be much better shape than the Cowboys.

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