The Chicago Bears are flying high after a comprehensive victory against the best coach in the league. But can the Dallas Cowboys wrangle them in their high aspirations? We get some insight by asking Blogging the Boys’ David Halprin 5 questions about our upcoming opponent.
1. After a rough week 1 from Dak, Cooper Rush came in and had a lot of success before falling on his face to an Eagles defense that didn’t even have Robert Quinn yet. Prescott looked to be returning to form against a bottom-dwelling Lions defense, but if he struggles early against the Bears, is there a chance we’ll hear fans calling for Cooper?
No, there won’t be any serious call for a return to Cooper Rush. The games that Rush won were not really won based on his prowess as a quarterback. The Cowboys fanbase has to appreciate what Rush did in winning those games, and that was not turning the ball over and making just enough plays to take advantage of a stellar defensive effort. The real winner of those games was the Cowboys defense, which is playing at an elite level right now. Rush did what he was asked to do by relying on the running game, an elite defense, and no turnovers until he hit the Eagles game. But there is no comparison between the talent levels of Rush and Dak Prescott. Prescott can make throws that Rush can’t, he is better at going deep, and he brings mobility and the threat of running to the position. It’s just a no-brainer that Prescott is QB1 in Dallas and a poor game won’t change that.
2. The Cowboys defense has been pestering offenses all year. Besides the star players, what has made this defense so effective? What has been the best way to move the ball against them?
This defense is effective because they have guys who can make plays at all three levels of the defense. And defensive coordinator Dan Quinn puts them into position to make those plays. It’s guys like safety Malik Hooker who looked to be a bust in Indianapolis, but has resurrected his career in Dallas. Guys like defensive end Dorance Armstrong, who played behind Randy Gregory for years, but has now broken out in his own right. Even guys like Leighton Vander Esch, who has started in Dallas for years but has been very up-and-down, with the down winning out until a redemptive year in 2022 so far. Quinn has these guys playing at a high level, and they love playing for Quinn. Of course, everything really works because of the play of Micah Parsons. And it’s not even the sacks, it’s just hustle plays all over the field. He is just an otherworldly talent.
But, if you want to hurt the Cowboys on defense, run the ball. That is their one Achilles heel. So much so that they went out this week and made a trade for noted run-stuffing defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins. The Cowboys can get bullied up the middle in the run game, so they decided to make a move. Also, historically, they struggle containing running quarterbacks. So in those respects, it sets up nicely for Chicago to challenge this defense.
3. Have Cowboys fans settled into the Mike McCarthy experience as a coach? Do you feel like he adds value in addition to what Dallas’ excellent coordinators bring? Would Cowboys fans support my theory that the LaFleur brother currently coaching the Packers isn’t actually that good but the team got significantly better due to McCarthy’s absence?
So far I don’t have a lot to complain about with McCarthy. In fact, I do give him credit for value-add over what the coordinators do. During his first year in Dallas Prescott went down for the season with injury early on, and the team tanked. That wasn’t unexpected once Prescott went down. So that season was an outlier. Last year the Cowboys went 12-5 and won the NFC East. That’s a really good regular season. They got rolled by the 49ers in the playoffs, so there was disappointment that McCarthy didn’t have his team better prepared for playoff football. But to his and the team’s credit, they decided to change the team’s identity in response. They are no longer a high-flying offensive unit relying on Dak Prescott’s arm to have a great game, paired with an opportunistic defense. This year they are a defensive team. Everything they do is centered on maximizing the defense. They like to run the ball and control the clock. They don’t turn the ball over a lot. They are a power team that doesn’t take chances because they know their defense is stifling teams. They are also very good on special teams. So far it has worked, even without Prescott. So getting back to the question, I can’t complain about McCarthy at this point. Sure, there are times I question some in-game decisions, but the Cowboys are winning and have built an identity. The real test, though, as always, is in the playoffs.
4. What young or new Cowboys are you excited about besides Parsons, Diggs, and Lamb? Who should Bears fans keep an eye out for in this game?
Defensive end Sam Williams is an explosive athlete, reminiscent of Parsons in style and build. He’s been a bit limited in snaps because of the Cowboys very deep defensive line, but he was oozing potential through the first six games. He broke out in game seven. Last week he had two sacks and a tackle for loss in the run game, and everyone is waiting to see if he can follow it up this week. Left tackle Tyler Smith is a rookie, but has shown a lot of promise. His play right now is pretty good, with some punishing blocks in the run game. He still has things to learn in pass protection, but he is also not a revolving door out there either. His potential is very high. And the Cowboys rookie tight end duo of Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot have been doing some good things while starter Dalton Schultz has been injured. The Cowboys will play all three tight ends and it has been effective.
5. Draftkings has the over/under for this game at 42. The Bears have held their opponents to under 20 points on average while the Cowboys have held theirs to under 15. Do you think these defenses keep the score low, or does one of these offenses break through?
I don’t think either offense is really going to go off, because both like to run the ball and when teams do that, and do it effectively, it usually leads to lower scoring games. The Cowboys are still in the process of knocking the rust off of Dak Prescott’s game so they will probably rely on the running game even if Ezekiel Elliott is unable to play. It seems like Chicago will want to run the ball because that’s where the Cowboys are somewhat deficient on defense. 42 is a pretty low o/u number, and I could see the game going over it, but not by much unless turnovers blow it open for one side.
This looks to be set up to look like an old school Bears game, where defenses and running games determine the outcome. I imagine this game will go to the team with the best fullback. I suspect that when the Bears star FB blazes a path through the middle of the Cowboys line for Herbert and Montgomery, this may go down in history as the blazing game.
If you also believe the Bears running game will do their part to blow the over/under out of the water, our friends over at DraftKings Sportsbook have you covered for this game and all the week’s NFL action.