The Dallas Cowboys will play their first game in 12 days when they take on the Baltimore Ravens on Tuesday night. The last time the Cowboys played was on November 26 when they faced the Washington Football Team. As for the Ravens, this is their second game in just six days. This will also mark quarterback Lamar Jackson‘s first game back from the COVID-19 list.
The Cowboys are 3-8 on the season and need this win to stay within one game of the New York Giants. Here are three keys to the game against Baltimore in week 13.
Contain Lamar Jackson in the Run Game
The Cowboys have to keep Lamar Jackson in the pocket. Lamar is most dangerous when he gets outside the pocket and runs. Although Lamar hasn’t been as dangerous as he was last season, he is still running effectively. In 10 games, he has over 100 rushes for 575 yards and three touchdowns.
The difference for the Cowboys in this game is the fact that Lamar is coming off the COVID-19 list, the day before the game. He hasn’t been able to practice for 10 days and his body could still be recovering. The only other quarterback to come back from covid and play immediately was Cam Newton. In that game, Newton only threw for 157 yards and two interceptions. Even though he ran 10 times for 76 yards and a touchdown, he was seen as a different player post covid.
Assuming that Lamar is back to full health, Dallas had 12 days to prepare for him. They have two solid linebackers who can stick with him. Jaylon Smith has the speed to spy on Lamar throughout the game.
It’s no easy feat to stop Lamar on the ground, but if they want any chance at this game, they have to do just that.
Control the Game
Dallas hasn’t been able to sustain long drives all season long. As a result, they rank 29th in the NFL in average time of possession per game (27:58). This Ravens defense is one of the best in the league so producing 6-8 minute drives against them is going to be extremely difficult. However, the Cowboys have the offensive weapons to give the Ravens’ defense some trouble.
The Cowboys have to do many things correctly on offense to maintain some efficient drives. For starters, the offensive line has to step up once again. Although they will be without their All-Pro lineman, Zack Martin, Ezekiel Elliott has to show that he doesn’t need a top-10 offensive line to be a solid back.
Additionally, Andy Dalton has to get the ball out quickly. With a depleted offensive line, Dallas won’t be able to hold Baltimore’s defensive line for long. As a result, he has to hit Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb for quick routes and allow them to run after the catch.
By controlling the game, the Cowboys can keep their defense on the sideline and keep Lamar off the field as much as they can.
Let Lamar Jackson Throw
There’s no question that Lamar’s strength is on the ground and not through the air. If the Cowboys can stop the run, Lamar will be forced to throw, which is something that he has struggled with. On the season, Lamar has 1948 passing yards, which is only 92 yards more than Dak Prescott has. Prescott has played five fewer games.
Furthermore, Lamar’s passer rating hasn’t been the best either. He only has three games this season in which his quarterback rating was over 100. In his last eight games, Lamar has only eclipsed over a 100 passer rating in one game, week 4 against Washington.
The Cowboys have been atrocious all season long in allowing big plays. Nonetheless, this matchup with the Ravens is a favorable one for them when it comes to deep throws. On the season, Lamar has an abysmal 58.4 passer rating on deep passes over 20 yards.
If the Cowboys allow Lamar to throw the football, good things can happen for them.
Featured Image Courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens