At the beginning of the week, I thought it might be possible to sneak by the Cowboys, catch them resting on a soft spot in their schedule against the 0-3 Rams; the sort of strategy that's netted the Browns their wins over the last few seasons. The more I read about the situation in Dallas, the less likely I think that is. Arguably, they're the class of the NFC, the default door mat to the Patriots in the next Super Bowl, and they're going to make every effort to shoot for an undefeated season.
You can bet Jerry Jones is starting to expect it.
So far this season, I've tried to think of the Rams game plan in a strategic, almost scientific manner. "If X, then Y." Forget about it. The more I try to understand, the less I actually grasp of the 2007 Rams. The point being, there's no fancy way to describe what the Rams ought to do this week other than go for broke. At 0-3 there's nothing left to lose. Another week of middle of the road play calling and second guessing will almost certainly, barring a Cowboys forfeit, result in a loss.
Truth is, I think I'd rather take my chances for an INT on 20+ yard strikes to the receivers than watch a pick on a grind it out 2 yard fade that might well result in an INT anyway.
The Cowboys defense had three picks against the Bears last week. Any other time, I'd shrug it off as more the result of Rex Grossman than the Cowboys defense, but the Bears offense isn't any better than the Rams offense, the "Least Exciting Show on Turf." Over at Blogging the Boys, SBN's excellent Cowboys community, there's some insight into the Cowboys defensive philosophy. Here's head coach Wade Phillips' take on their defense when asked about their 8 INTS on the season:
They're stopping the run to great to great effect, allowing an average of 86.7 yards per game on the ground. Through the air, they're allowing 250, but keeping teams weary of passing because of the play making ability of the defense.
If ever Linehan had an excuse to draw up a conservative game plan it's now. And that's exactly why it won't work. Establishing the run will be tough, so the trick is, we'll say it again, is to come out throwing. The Cowboys have scored 86 points in the second half of game this year (more than the Rams have scored total), so putting points on the board early will be a must. And the best way to do that is open up the play book. They can lose with a fight, thereby giving themselves a chance to win, or they can lose like they've been losing behind second guessed and ultimately confusing game plans.
Bulger insists he's able to play, and Linehan concurs that they wouldn't let him if they didn't feel he had his full ability, i.e. he can throw the ball. They better be right because they're going to need to throw the ball, a lot.
Here's a tidbit of info for you. Last year, through the first three weeks of the season, Bulger had just two TDs and 711 yards passing, and was 58-99. In the Rams' week four match up against Detroit he threw for 328 yards and 3 TDs. This season Bulger has just 2 TDs and 651 yards and is 63-109 through three games. Although the Cowboys certainly aren't the Lions, there's a pattern here: slow offensive starts and conservative play calling.
On the flip side, Bulger didn't throw an INT until week six against the Seahawks last year. He's got three on the season so far.
The flamboyant Cowboys owner and the head coach who serves him, Kissing Suzy Kolber examines the dialectic of the relationship between Phillips and Jones played out in the can.
Fantasy talking heads like Brian Leonard as a pick up this week. Rams fans know that the team will need to do a lot of passing to make a go of it this week, so I'm not sure Leonard's a good bet to rack up the rushing yards this week. However, it's getting to the point where you just don't know anymore.
The Rams haven't lost in Dallas since 1981...four games, including playoffs. If I were a betting man...