The Dallas Cowboys lost their season opener to the Los Angeles Rams by a score of 20-17. The Cowboys didn’t get much going on offense after only scoring three points in the second half. However, the Cowboys look to bounce back when the Atlanta Falcons come to town in week 2.
The Cowboys will have 20,000 fans in the stadium for their home opener. Both teams lost their week 1 matchup and can’t afford to start the season 0-2. Here are three keys to the game for the Dallas Cowboys in week 2.
There’s no question about it that Ezekiel Elliott is the focus of the Cowboys’ offense. Last week, Elliott had 22 carries for 96 yards and a touchdown.
Although Atlanta was somewhat efficient last week against the run (didn’t allow one player to rush over 30 yards), they did allow three touchdowns to running backs. Seattle’s running back Chris Carson had two receiving touchdowns while Carlos Hyde had a rushing touchdown. Seattle only ran the ball 20 times last week for 84 yards. Despite the fact that Seattle didn’t run the ball in large quantities, Atlanta still gave up 4.2 yards per carry.
Last season, Atlanta was middle of the pack when it came to defending the run. They ranked 15th against the run, giving up 110.9 rush yards per game.
Dallas’ success each game almost directly correlates to Elliott’s running game. When Elliott rushes for over 100 yards, the Cowboys are 23-5 in such games. However, the Cowboys’ win percentage takes a huge dip when Elliott is not as successful. When Elliott is not on his game neither are the Cowboys. In games in which Elliott rushes for less than 50 yards, Dallas is 1-10 in such games.
Getting Elliott going is a major key to the game. With Elliott rushing hard and effectively, the Cowboys will be in for great success to come out victorious against Atlanta.
Pressure Matt Ryan
The Dallas Cowboys’ front line is so deadly when each player plays their best. Their defensive line consists of Demarcus Lawrence, Dontari Poe, Everson Griffen and Aldon Smith who have combined for nine Pro Bowls and one All-Pro selection. The All-Pro selection was Smith back in 2012.
Last week, the Cowboys only had one sack. The only sack came in the fourth quarter when Smith sacked Jared Goff for an eight-yard loss. On the contrary, Atlanta only allowed two sacks last week, but has always struggled to keep Matt Ryan upright. Last season, Ryan was sacked 3.1 times per game and 48 times for the season. Both ranked in the bottom half of the league.
With this in mind, the Cowboys will look to exploit the Falcons offensive line. In games last year when the Cowboys sacked the quarterback three times or more, they were 4-2.
Getting to the quarterback is a major key to the game. In this matchup, bringing pressure to Ryan will go a long for Dallas. With more pressure comes more turnover opportunities. The Dallas defense needs to come out and pressure Ryan as much as they can.
Attack Atlanta’s Secondary
This game features two tremendous quarterbacks and offenses. This game could very well come down to quarterback play. As a result, Prescott needs to attack Atlanta’s weak secondary.
Just look at what Wilson did last week against that secondary. He threw for 322 yards and four touchdowns while completing 31/35 passes.
Last week, Prescott wasn’t as efficient as he would have liked to be. Throwing towards All-Pro corner, Jalen Ramsey is a difficult feat. However, Prescott still had a quarterback rating (QBR) of 73.3 which ranked ninth among quarterbacks in week 1. He completed 25/39 passes for 266 yards and a touchdown.
Last season, Atlanta allowed 20+ points in 13/16 games. On the other side, Dallas’ offense scored 20+ points in 12/16 games. It’s safe to say that Prescott and the Cowboys will score a lot of points in this game.
Prescott has the talent and pieces around him to thrive in this week 2 matchup. Attacking Atlanta’s secondary will be a major key to the game especially with the Falcons’ corners/safeties not being strongest.
This game will be a shootout and one of the highest-scoring games of the week. If the Cowboys follow the three keys to the game, they will be in for a successful week. However, Atlanta plays some terrific games and could give Dallas some trouble. The Cowboys and Falcons offenses should look to have efficient games and each score 30+ points. The slight edge will go to the Cowboys due to the 20,000 fans having an impact on the game.
Dallas Cowboys 34 – Atlanta Falcons 31
Image Courtesy of NFL Analysis Network
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