Each week Coltzilla will preview the upcoming game by speaking with fellow bloggers or writers who cover the week’s opponent. This week Coltzilla speaks with Dave Halprin, lead blogger at bloggingtheboys.com and head of NFL blogs with the SB Nation blog network, to get a Cowboys perspective on the Colts game Sunday afternoon.
CZ: With running backs like Felix Jones and Marion Barber in Dallas, why have the Cowboys struggled to run? Are the running troubles related to all the sacks Jon Kitna has taken since he took over as starter, or is there a separate cause?
DH: There have been a couple of issues with the running game. The main reason has pretty much been the run blocking. The Dallas line just wasn’t getting a push and they weren’t opening lanes. When Jason Garrett was the offensive coordinator, he had a tendency to abandon the run very early if it wasn’t working, and for the most part it wasn’t working. Since he’s taken over as head coach he’s shown a greater resolve to stick with the run game. And the offensive line is blocking much better since he’s taken over. The running game has been more effective since Kitna’s been the QB, but that’s from improved blocking and not anything specifically related to him.
CZ: Roy Williams has fumbled three times this year, which must be alarming to Cowboys’ fans. Any theories on what could be causing Williams’ problems?
DH: The last fumble was just a great defensive play by Malcolm Jenkins of the Saints. Roy probably should have had the ball in the other arm, but he had it protected, Jenkins just ripped it from his grip. In truth, outside of that play, there hasn’t been a lot of concern over Williams and fumbles. We’ve had so many other problems that were more prominent than that, so it really hasn’t been discussed or agonized over.
CZ: How would you characterize the Cowboys’ defensive style? Are they licking their chops at the notion that Manning has thrown 7 interceptions in the past 2 games?
DH: Under Wade Phillips the Cowboys were a very aggressive defense that blitzed a lot and played plenty of man-to-man. Since Jason Garret has been coach, and Paul Pasqualoni the defensive coordinator, Dallas has become much more conservative. They aren’t blitzing nearly as much, they’re playing more zone and making offenses beat them with short passes and forcing them to use a lot of plays to drive for scores. They’ve been playing much better since this change. I don’t think any team ever is licking their chops when facing Peyton Manning. Sure, it’s encouraging that he (and the Colts) are struggling right now, but he’s still Peyton Manning, so there’s no joy in playing against him.
CZ: The Colts defense gives up its share of yards but does a pretty good job of holding opponents to field goals. How confident are Cowboys’ fans that David Buehler can help carry Dallas to a victory, should it be necessary?
DH: I don’t think we’re very confident in that. Buehler hasn’t been terrible but he’s missed a few kicks that cost Dallas not only points, but momentum and field position. If it comes down to him winning the game, I wouldn’t feel great about that.
CZ: Finally, what is your prediction for the game and why do you foresee that outcome?
DH: Well, my heart would say Dallas wins. But when I look at it realistically, and if I had to bet my life savings on it, I would probably take the Colts. For Dallas to win, they need to control the ball with the run game and then take their shots downfield. We don’t want a lot of quick three and outs and give Manning too many opportunities. We also would need to get some pressure on him without resorting to a lot of blitzing. We want to be able to drop a lot of guys into coverage and keep everything in front of us. That would be the prescription for a Dallas win, but I’m not confident that can happen. We are playing much better lately, but we’re going on the road, and the Colts are desperate for a win to keep pace in the playoff race.
Coltzilla would like to thank Dave for taking the time to answer questions. To learn more about the Cowboys, visit bloggingtheboys.com and read Dave and his staff’s work.