By Zach Walker
Monday – December 9 – 7:30 PM
Soldier Field – Chicago
A sweet ten day gap between games is an excellent perk for playing on Thanksgiving. It’s only a perk if they can win the game against the Raiders. Terrance Williams taking the opening kickoff out of the endzone from about 8 yards deep wasn’t the best judgment call, then fumbling the ball… You just can’t do that. After the Raiders picked up the fumble and scored, the teams would exchange circumstances, when the Raiders couldn’t secure the quarterback-center exchange, and after the recovery, DeMarco Murray would run the ball right in for the touchdown. The Cowboys would get all of their sluggish play out during the first half, including being burned by former Cowboys’ receiver Andre Holmes. And when the game got to 21-7, it didn’t look very good, but a two-minute drive closed the gap and the half. A couple of big throws to Jason Witten, and a fumble by Dez Bryant on a crossing route and a great heads up play by left tackle Tyron Smith to keep the ball in the hands of the Cowboys, then Dez put the negative play behind him and made a great one-move play at the line to get open for a big gain to the 4 yard line. And the Cowboys would score on the only rush of the drive. The second half would be all Cowboys, specifically, all ground game. DeMarco Murray and Lance Dunbar would combine for over 120 yards. Lance Dunbar was in an absolute groove, making beautiful cuts to get himself loose. Murray was running with authority, and was able to punch the ball in the redzone three times. But if I’m going to talk about grooves, I’ve got to talk about Tony Romo. He finished the game by completing 12 consecutive passes. His lone touchdown pass was a 4-yard bullet to Dez Bryant, over former Cowboys’ cornerback Mike Jenkins.
The Bears almost played 75 minutes against the Vikings, and lost in overtime. And having not watched the game, just looking at stats, I can’t see how the Bears lost. They got another very good game from second string quarterback Josh McCown, who threw for 355 yards, two scores, and zero interceptions. They had a great performance from their running back Matt Forte, who had a very efficient game at 23 carries for 120 yards. But their receiver Alshon Jeffery is a beast and a perfect complement to Brandon Marshall. Jeffery finished the game with 12 catches for 249 yards and two touchdowns, and the scores weren’t redzone catches, he had to burn on his first touchdown of the day, an 80 yard score. But the second touchdown catch was amazing, an all hands play, caught right on top of Vikings cornerback Chris Cook. Oh wait! Now I see it. Adrian Peterson played in the game, and he sort of, did what he does, and wore the defense down. He carried the ball 35 times for 211 yards. And Peterson didn’t have an explosive play, his longest run was 23 yards, it’s how he ran the ball that was just a killer. With Peterson, really any down and distance is achievable, and on a few tense plays, Peterson was able to pick it up. The Bears front was able to get after Matt Cassel, having five players picking up at least half of a sack, with Julius Peppers raking in 2.5 sacks in the game, and is the main concern in the protection of Tony Romo, is getting Peppers “salted”.
Well I seriously doubt the Cowboys are roll into the cold Soldier Field (potentially feeling like 9 degrees) and run DeMarco Murray anywhere close to 35 times, I’m sorry but that just doesn’t sound realistic, even though the Bears defense isn’t very good at stopping the run. The Cowboys are going to do what they do, pass to open up the run game. The Cowboys won’t be worrying about what happened last time that they played the Bears. A horrible game by Tony Romo, who was picked off five times, twice by Major Wright who is a little banged up with a hamstring injury, but is expected to play, and got pick-sixed by both Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman. Briggs is out, but Tillman will always be looking for the game-breaking play. Cutler is also out, but McCown has played amazing in Cutler’s absence, only throwing one interception to 9 touchdowns, with a good 65.2 completion percentage, but is only 2-3 during the time he has had to start for Cutler. Getting some clutter and chaos going on around McCown is what going to get the job done, and coach Rod Marinelli with a return to Chicago, the Cowboys’ already fiery coach, might have a little extra fuel for his players. Covering the Bears’ tall receivers is going to be made more difficult, with the absence of Morris Claiborne, and don’t forget about their tight end, Martellus Bennett. This game is going to be cold, and might get some sloppy play, maybe not Detroit Lions in the snow bad, but maybe some loose ball security, so I hope Dez has some gloves made with some skateboard grip tape.
Matchup of the Game
Cowboys Left Tackle Tyron Smith vs Bears Defensive End Julius Peppers: Peppers is still one of the best pass rushers in the league, and it sets up for Tyron Smith to have another big test against of the league’s finest.
Three other matchups to watch for
DAL WR Dez Bryant vs CHI CB Charles Tillman
DAL CB Brandon Carr vs CHI WR Alshon Jeffery
DAL DT Jason Hatcher vs CHI OG Kyle Long.
Prediction: Dallas 20 – Chicago 17
Side Prediction: It’s going to be a very cold game, and Jon Gruden is going to chuckle while explaining just how cold it is.