The Denver Broncos face a dangerous and dynamic opponent in Week 9 of the NFL season. The Dallas Cowboys are multifaceted with a potent offense and a defense capable of creating big plays.
The Broncos on the other hand could not seem to do anything right during a four-game losing streak. The narrative slightly changed last week against the Washington Football Team.
Denver’s defensive succeeded in bringing pressure and created two critical turnovers leading to a much-needed victory.
Each week MHS spotlights individual matchups the Broncos must win during each game for the team to be successful.
This week, the team’s matchups are the unit’s upfront. The Cowboys boast one of the NFL’s premier rushing offenses and a top-10 defense against the run. For the Broncos to get their head above .500, they must find a way to win in the trenches.
The Denver offensive line versus the Cowboys defensive front
For the offense to be successful, the Broncos rushing attack has to pick up steam. The plan from the offseason was for this team to play balanced, complementary football to win.
To keep their defense fresh, and the Dallas defense guessing, Mike Munchak’s group must get more production out of the running game. The well-reveared coach needs his group to elevate their game, and it must start this week.
However, it will be a tough task Sunday, but a necessary one nonetheless. The Dallas defense is yielding only 88.6 rushing yards per game. That ranks the Cowboys as the sixth stingiest defense against the run per ESPN.
Conversely, the Broncos rank 19th in rushing with 103.6 yards per game. Most concerning, Denver has only rushed for 124 yards combined in its last two outings. That simply is not good enough. Add the struggles in the run game to deficiencies the team has at quarterback, and there is a clear connection to the team’s offensive woes.
To make matters worse, stalwart left tackle Garret Bolles is out Sunday and Calvin Anderson will take his place. Though Anderson performed well last season in spot duty, he is not the caliber of player Bolles is. The unit must work together to ensure no one link in the chain falters and works in unison.
Regardless of who does play this week, the team must find a way to mesh and get consistency out of their two very good running backs. Melvin Gordon has been a consistent performer all season while Javonte Williams shows flashes of brilliance. Both backs are too talented to be non-factors.
Pat Shurmur should use the New England Patriots playbook from a few weeks ago. The Patriots used heavy sets and cross-action to create mismatches in the running game. Shurmur can use a similar strategy to get Gordon and Williams going and keep the Dallas defense off-balance.
Broncos front seven against the vaunted Dallas offensive line
The Broncos were gashed by the Cleveland Browns for 182 yards on the ground just weeks ago. They failed to get any pressure on Case Keenum and could not get off the field in a tough to watch loss on the road.
Last week, the defense displayed some nastiness and brought pressure at Taylor Heinekie all game long.
To keep the Broncos in the game this week, the defense must contain the Cowboys rushing attack. Dallas checks in to Sunday’s matchup as the league’s second-leading running game with 152 yards per game.
Denver must stop Ezekial Elliot and Tony Pollard from getting going. If Dak Prescott and the Cowboys’ offense are limited to one dimension, Denver has a chance to keep pace. If offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is having success on the ground, it will open up the shot plays using play action. That could be trouble for a defense without Bryce Callahan.
Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith is out this week, so Denver must capitalize on Terence Steele being on the left side. Malik Reed was dominant last Sunday and should have the edge against Steele this week.
The brand new starting linebacking duo of Kenny Young and Baron Browning showed what the infusion of speed and aggression can bring to that position. The two will need to be stout against the interior line of Connor Williams, Tyler Biadiaz, and All-Pro Zach Martin. Browning and Young scraping to the run cleanly will be necessary to keep the Cowboys running game in check.
Look for Denver to play aggressively and use blitz packages to bring more players than the Cowboys line can block. If the Broncos can control the line of scrimmage, they can slow down the Cowboys’ offense and keep themselves in the striking distance late in the contest.