The headline is actually the perfect analogy to this coming Sunday’s game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers. Why? The running game. As it turns out, the Dallas Cowboys stand tall as the NFL’s top rushing team, while the Green Bay Packers just happen to boast the league’s best run defense. As a matter of fact, the Cowboys are averaging over 3.5X more rushing yards (155.2) than what the Packers are allowing per game (42.8). Here’s what else you need to know about Sunday’s game:
Let’s be clear, this is in the NFL and the separation in talent is always minimal from the top to the bottom, so we are taking nothing away from Green Bay. However, as impressive as their numbers are they haven’t exactly been tested in the run game. Their opponents, to this point, have been Jacksonville (32nd in rushing), Minnesota (30th), New York Giants (25th), and Detroit (20th) without the Lions lead back, Ameer Abdullah. You may ask yourself, “what about the run defense of the teams Dallas has played?” I’m glad you asked, because it’s semi-similar. The Cowboys began the season against the Giants (13th run D), then Washington (30th), Chicago (26th), San Francisco (31st), and Cincinnati (21st). You want to know the truth, though? Because we are still in the opening 1\3 portion of the season, Green Bay and Dallas both claim large responsibility for the horrid numbers their opponents have posted.
As much as we like to think all Cowboys begin and end with the Dallas run game, there are other aspects to factor in. I’ve been a big fan of how the Dallas secondary has been playing this season, particularly Morris Claiborne. Throughout his career, Mo has flashed ability, but has been hampered by a combination of confidence and injury issues. Now in a contract year, the 2011 1st round selection is playing like he deserved to be taken that high in the draft. 24 has been able to limit, if not entirely shut down, wide receivers such as Odell Beckham Jr., DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffrey, and AJ Green. Even though being a defensive back is considered a skill position, you almost gauge their success in the same way you would the offensive line. How often did you hear their name? None? They must’ve done a good job then. Linemen often don’t get praised for getting a block and advancing to the second level, no, the running back gets credit for hitting the hole and gaining the yards. A defensive back often doesn’t get praised for blanketing a guy, but rather the opposing QB gets ridiculed for throwing an incompletion or a defensive linemen gets credit for a sack. This is important because of Mo’s assignment this week, Jordy Nelson. The guys Claiborne has faced are great athletes and some have elite speed and are solid route runners. However, I don’t believe any of them are capable of getting separation the way Nelson can with his combination of size, speed as well as being one of the best route runners over the past decade.
There’s loads of fun matchups across the board in this game, but the most intriguing to me is what will be happening on the edges of the tackle box. Doug Free and Tyron Smith vs. Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers. It’s not just the pair of future hall of famers, however. A rookie by the name of Kyler Fackrell out of Utah State has gotten better week in and week out at outside linebacker, meaning Green Bay doesn’t miss a beat rushing the passer when their starters leave the game.
Can you believe I went through an entire column without mentioning arguably the best quarterback in the NFL? That’s because we all know Aaron Rodgers is absolutely awesome and there’s not much else that needs to be said. Game time Sunday between the Cowboys and Packers is 3:25pm on 101.9 KBUS.