Tale Of The Tape: Dallas Cowboys At Chicago Bears
- QuarterbackTony Romo played a key role in leading the Cowboys to back-to-back wins over the Giants and the Raiders. If those victories are going to mean anything, they are going to have to hold off the Philadelphia Eagles and win the NFC East. Romo is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the league, but he struggles to win important games.The Bears have performed fairly well on offense with Josh McCown at quarterback, but they would be much better with Jay Cutler under center. There’s a chance that Cutler will be back at quarterback for this game, but he will have to demonstrate in practice that his sprained ankle and groin problems are behind him. Cutler’s return would give the Bears a spark.
- OffenseThe Cowboys have gotten decent production from DeMarco Murray, who has rushed for 697 yards and 4.9 yards per carry. While he may not be the toughest running back, he should be able to take advantage of the Bears’ 32nd-ranked run defense. Dez Bryant has the speed and athleticism to dominate this game while tight end Jason Witten will catch nearly every pass he can reach.The Bears are dependent on Matt Forte to take the pressure off of Cutler, McCown and the beleaguered defense. If Forte can run the ball well, he can keep the Chicago defense off the field. Brandon Marshall has the length and reach to make the most difficult catches, while Alshon Jeffery may be the best No. 2 receiver in the league. Martellus Bennett is a solid red-zone weapon.
- DefenseThe Cowboys have the 31st-ranked defense in the league and that unit’s inability to come up with big stops has put overwhelming pressure on Romo and the offense. Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher has been solid with 9.0 sacks, while DeMarcus Ware is likely to be a major factor. Middle linebacker Sean Lee (hamstring) could be back for this game. He has 93 tackles and four interceptions.The Bears’ identity as a nasty, aggressive and hard-hitting defensive team has fallen apart. They rank 27th overall and they are abysmal against the run. That won’t change until linebacker Lance Briggs (shoulder) returns. Even though he has not played since Week Seven, Briggs is still third on the Bears in tackles with 64 stops. Defensive end Julius Peppers has 6.5 sacks and has batted down four passes.
- Special TeamsThe Cowboys have done a consistent job covering kickoffs and punts, and they have gotten a boost from Dwayne Harris, who has brought a punt back for a score. Placekicker Dan Bailey has made 19-of-21 FG attempts, including 4-of-5 from 50 yards and beyond.The Bears have suffered a downturn in their special teams coverage units this season. Devin Hester has regained his form as one of the better punt and kickoff returners in the league. Robbie Gould missed a game-winning FG attempt in overtime in Week 13, but he is one of the game’s best placekickers.
Based on the play of both teams’ defenses, this could be a high-scoring, back-and-forth game. The Cowboys have much more momentum, but the Bears should be angry after dropping back-to-back games to St. Louis and Minnesota. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor