A loss would drop the Cowboys under .500 for the first time since last October when they had a 3-4 record on their way to a second straight 8-8 finish. If the Cowboys don’t want to be viewed as a mediocre team, the time for action is now.
“You are tired talking about it, but the reality of it you got to do something about it, that's what our focus is about this week,” tight end Jason Witten said.
Slowing down a juggernaut: Notice it did not say “Stopping a juggernaut.”
The Broncos enter the game averaging 44.8 points per game, and Manning has 16 touchdown passes and no interceptions with 1,470 passing yards in the first four games. The key for the Cowboys will be third-down and red-zone defense. Somehow the defense has to get off the field, and somehow it has to hold the Broncos to field goals when they get in the red zone.
“They’re going to make a ton of plays in this game, that’s what they do, just put the tape on,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s a very efficient player. He throws the ball underneath on time very accurately. They’re going to make those catches and the run after the catch, he makes plays down the field. They balance the run with the pass. He uses his weapons. If you’re trying to take somebody away, he’s going to throw it to somebody else. He gets everybody involved. He makes a ton of plays. He makes very few errors. Like you would try to do with any quarterback any week, you got to somehow affect him, make it difficult for him, create an environment that he doesn’t have quite the understanding when the ball hits his hands that he would like, disguise some things, you try to hit him and make him uncomfortable in the pocket. You try to cover the guys well on the back end. But, trust me, everybody is trying to do that.”
No team has been successful yet.
Maximizing possessions: The Cowboys don’t want to get into a shootout with the Broncos, though they have some big-play capability in Dez Bryant, but they don’t want to go into a shell either.
While the easiest way to slow Manning is to keep him on the sideline, Garrett said the job is to execute plays consistently. Last week at San Diego the Cowboys had only seven plays in the third quarter and had some big mistakes (drops and penalties) that limited their time on the field and allowed the Chargers to take control of the game.
That can’t happen against the Broncos. The Cowboys have to do more than just control the clock. They have to score touchdowns whenever possible. They did that when they beat undefeated New Orleans in 2009, but could not do it last season at undefeated Atlanta, settling for field goals early in a 19-13 loss.
“We’ve played a lot of games where we’ve had the opponent who’s been playing at a pretty high level,” quarterback Tony Romo said. “We’ve seen that before. We’ve had some undefeated teams we’ve played around here, so we’ll go out there and be ready to go.”