Tale Of The Tape: Dallas Cowboys At Detroit Lions
- QuarterbackCritics may want to label Tony Romo as a quarterback who will always make the big mistake that will cost his team important games, but that would be a lazy opinion. He has had that issue in the past, but Romo is a much sharper quarterback this year. He has a 15-5 TD-interception ratio and he throws one of the most catchable passes in the league.It’s been a solid season for Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford as well. He has a very strong arm and he has completed an impressive 61.4 percent of his passes and he tossed 15 TD passes and just four interceptions. Stafford has a tremendous rapport with wide receiver Calvin Johnson, but he is no longer forcing the ball when Johnson is not open. That’s a big step forward.
- OffenseThe Cowboys would like to have a consistent running game to take some of the pressure off of Romo, and there is a good chance DeMarco Murray could return from a knee strain for this game. He has rushed for 428 yards and 4.7 yards per carry. Dez Bryant is simply one of the best receivers in the league and he should dominate against Detroit. Jason Witten will catch almost every pass that comes his way.The Lions have gotten a lift from Reggie Bush’s speed and quickness. Not only can he take the ball on a swing pass from Stafford, he has been surprisingly effective running the ball with 423 yards and a 4.3 ypc average. Johnson returned to top form against the Bengals in Week Seven. He had been slowed by a knee injury, but he regularly defeated double-coverage.
- DefenseThe Cowboys played a solid game in their Week Seven victory over the Eagles, but that showing may have been a fluke since they rank 28th in total yards allowed. The Cowboys are not the same team when DeMarcus Ware is not in the lineup, but he may return from his thigh injury for this game. Middle linebacker Sean Lee leads the team with 71 tackles.Detroit has been quite inconsistent defensively, ranking 30th in total yards allowed. The Lions have a physical, nasty defense led by defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. Suh has 21 tackles and 3.5 sacks, but he will make undisciplined plays that cost his team from time to time. Middle linebacker Stephen Tullock has a team-high 58 tackles and 2.0 sacks.
- Special TeamsThe Cowboys have gotten a big lift from their special team as their coverage units have been solid and Dwayne Harris has a punt return for a score. Dan Bailey has been a decent placekicker, making 11-of-13 FG attempts. Punter Chris Jones has dropped 13 of his 34 punts inside the 20.While return specialist Micheal Spurlock is decent, the Lions have had trouble with their coverage teams and that vulnerability could be costly in this game. David Akers has had a better year than he did with the 49ers last year, as he has made 11-of-14 FG attempts. Sam Martin is averaging 48.2 yards per punt.
Both teams appear to be among the NFC’s more talented teams. While the Lions and Cowboys have been troubled by fourth-quarter problems and mistakes in the past, the Cowboys appear to be growing quite a bit in that area and may outlast the Lions. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor