Some links from Dallas on the chatter surrounding the Cowboys:
1. Need to rise up in critical situations. Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas writes on the message from coach Jason Garrett to his players -- situational football. Sound familiar? That's a Bill Belichick staple and an area the Cowboys have struggled through four games, failing to hold leads against the Jets and Lions. "I think we need to be more consistent handling the different situations that come up in the game, and I think we need to do the things that winning teams do at crunch time," Garrett says.
2. Identity stretch for Cowboys. With a road game at New England, a home game against the Rams, then a road Monday nighter in Philadelphia next on the schedule, Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas writes that this looks like a defining time for the club.
3. Defending empty sets a key challenge. Massachusetts native Todd Archer, of ESPNDallas, gives his "5 Wonders" surrounding the Cowboys. Archer notes that the Lions had success going empty against the Cowboys' defense, and that could be a plan the Patriots employ often.
4. LB Sean Lee looms large in matchup game. Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News points out why impressive second-year linebacker Sean Lee is a player to watch Sunday -- he can match up against the Patriots' tight ends.
5. Health on the upswing. Coming off their bye, the Cowboys are as healthy as they've been in some time, the Dallas Morning News notes. "It's definitely exciting to see what everybody's going to do now that everybody's back," said reserve cornerback Alan Ball, who had been thrust into a starting role for one game.
6. Solder was on Cowboys' radar. Had the Cowboys not selected offensive tackle Tyron Smith in the first round (9th overall), Patriots rookie offensive tackle Nate Solder was their other option, Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes. "We liked Nate very much," coach Jason Garrett says. "We were not surprised he was drafted in the first round, and we’re not surprised that he’s playing this early into his first year."
7. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has had success vs. Pats. Now in his first year as Cowboys defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan can look to last year's game-plan with the Browns to help him formulate a plan against Tom Brady and Co. Ryan was Browns' defensive coordinator and hatched a solid plan in a blowout win last year. Still, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett downplayed how much that could mean. "The makeup of their team is different. The makeup of the Cowboys team is different than the Browns team in 2010," he says.