As a Monday night showdown versus the Chicago Bears looms, the Dallas Cowboys couldn’t face a tougher opponent right now.
Dallas’ 16-10 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers exposed the offensive line and things could get much worse against Chicago’s defensive front.
The Bears annually field one of the league’s best defenses under head coach Lovie Smith, and are led by defensive end Julius Peppers, who has 2.5 sacks this season. Peppers, along with defensive tackle Henry Melton and defensive end Israel Idonije will exploit a jumpy Cowboys’ line that committed six penalties, including four false starts in Week Three.
Dallas running back DeMarco Murray appeared on ESPN on Wednesday and was asked how the team was preparing for Chicago.
“Just match their intensity,” Murray said. “They have a very fast defense, and are great at stopping the run.”
Murray is right on all accounts and he should be especially worried as the Bears haven’t allowed a 100-yard rushing game by any back in their last 14 games dating back to last season. Currently, Chicago is sixth in rushing defense, allowing 76 yards per game, which is just a shade under what the Cowboys have averaged on the ground this season.
After three games this season, the Bears also lead the NFL with 14 sacks and opponents only have a 24 percent success rate on third down.
The sacks will be a major problem come Monday, as protecting quarterback Tony Romo proved very difficult for the line against the Buccaneers. Romo was sacked four times and was hit another four, and as a result he coughed up two fumbles and an interception.
Dallas right tackle Doug Free was responsible for four of the line’s penalties and acknowledged his struggles.
“I haven’t pass-protected well enough,” Free said to the Dallas Morning News. “We haven’t run the ball well enough. That definitely contributes to what I’ve done,” Free said Wednesday. “I don’t think I’ve done a good enough job and we got to get it fixed.”
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