3TFO: Cowboys @ Chiefs, Week 2
This AFC/NFC showdown finds the Dallas Cowboys travelling to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs, now coached by Andy Reid, who has plenty of experience playing the Cowboys from his days in Philadelphia. The last time these two squads faced each other was in 2009, and it was a thriller, with Dallas winning 26-20 thanks in large part to WR Miles Austin’s 250 yards and two scores. The Chiefs are a far different team four years later and are coming off a blowout win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars did not score a single offensive point. The Cowboys also tasted Week 1 victory over the division rival New York Giants; however, winning by only five points when the Giants turned the ball over six times is concerning.
Recently-paid QB Tony Romo was pressured on 18-of-51 drop backs, resulting in only two sacks, but also a rib injury. Romo would return and help the Cowboy’s get the W, but he was clearly hurting. It is very important that Dallas allows Romo to stay upright in this contest. This will be a challenge, because the Chiefs had two stud OLBs in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. In last week’s Jaguars game, these two took over as Houston had three sacks and a further three hurries. While Hali didn’t record a sack he did get a QB hit, four hurries, and a pick-six. This lethal duo will present a challenge to Dallas tackles Tyron Smith and Doug Free, who performed alright last week, conceding only six total pressures between them. However, three of those pressures resulted in Romo on the ground. Sophomore nose tackle Donatari Poe also got in on the action for the Chiefs with two sacks and a hit. Dallas rookie Travis Frederick will be face up to Poe most often and though he only gave up a hit and a hurry in last week’s contest, he could have his hands full this Sunday. This could be one of the most important matchups in this contest.
Brandon Albert vs. DeMarcus Ware
This will be a pivotal matchup between two top-notch players. DeMarcus Ware has been terrorizing the league for years; since we began watching every play of every game in 2008, Ware has achieved the second-highest pass-rushing grade among 3-4 OLBs twice, the third-best twice, and the best once, which is consistent domination. Even though he was hampered by injuries last year he was still the third best pressuring opposing QBs among his 3-4 peers. Last Sunday night he continued his elite play with two QB knockdowns and four further hurries. Meanwhile, Chiefs’ LT Brandon Albert, a former first-round pick in 2008, has only graded negatively once in his career in pass protection. He only conceded a hit and a hurry in 38 pass-blocking attempts in the win over Jacksonville. The Jaguars don’t have any pass-rushers anywhere near as talented as Ware though. Can Albert hold up in one of his biggest challenges of the season?
Alex Smith vs. Dallas Defense
With the game comfortably won early, Alex Smith only had to attempt eight passes 10 or more yards downfield – and he only completed four of those. Everyone knows Smith is better when he can check it down – before being injured and subsequently replaced by Colin Kaepernick last year, Smith completed a mere 36 passes 10 or more yards downfield, and 117 passes nine yards or less. This strategy can be successful, but can it work against the Cowboys?
Last week Eli Manning completed 14 passes that traveled nine yards or less for 141 yards, a score, and two interceptions against Dallas. However, the two-time Super Bowl MVP completed 13 passes 20 or more yards downfield, but for 309 yards, three TDs and only one pick. Considering the Cowboy’s questionable safeties, which include journeyman Will Allen and the unproven Barry Church, it could serve the Chiefs well to take a break from the usual conservative game plan and go deep against this secondary. Allen had an interception off a tip and a pass defensed, but also conceded 101 yards on three catches, which included two scores by Victor Cruz. Church made a big play with a fumble return for a TD off David Wilson’s second fumble, but he also allowed all three passes to be completed on him. Will Smith press the back end of this secondary, or will he fall into his usual style?
Follow Trey on Twitter