Friday, November 5, 2004

Cowboys again a team on the run


Big line keyed victory over Lions

By Mark Curnutte
Enquirer staff writer

Dallas rediscovered its offensive identity last week in a 10-point win against Detroit.

The Cowboys ran the ball 41 times behind their big, physical offensive line and controlled the clock for almost 39 minutes.

Looking to reach .500 against the 2-5 Bengals, the 3-4 Cowboys will come to Cincinnati determined to follow the 2003 playoff blueprint that it dusted off last week.

"We anticipate them coming out running the ball," Bengals defensive end Justin Smith said. "So there's really no speed involved. You've just got to line up and hit them. The main thing is getting everybody in their gaps."

Dallas' line features a combination of size and speed, similar to the Bengals' AFC North division rivals, Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

The left side of the Cowboys' line is big and good, home to 2003 Pro Bowl tackle Flozell Adams and Pro Bowl guard Larry Allen. Adams is listed at 343 pounds (357 in the Cowboys media guide), Allen 325 (335 in the media guide).

"It's not going to be a shock to us," Smith said of the line's size. "What they've been doing a lot is Larry Allen coming downhill and chipping off. That's what made him who he is."

Smith's job will be to hold his ground against Adams and cover the outside gap off the left side of the offensive set.

The key, Smith said, is not to try to peak around the inside of Adams to see if the play is a run or pass, and just force the run back inside to right defensive tackle Langston Moore and linebackers who should have filled inside gaps.

Moore will make his second start in place of the injured Tony Williams, lost for the season with a broken and dislocated left ankle.

Allen is an eight-time Pro Bowler.

"He's just a beast. He's strong," Moore said of Allen. "Last time I heard the dude bench-presses 600 pounds. Besides being in the league 11 years, he knows all the ins and outs of the game and he's still physical. It's a matter if you get up high, he'll bury you.

"It's my job to stay low, use my technique, not worrying about making all the plays, and let my linebackers or John (Thornton) make the play."

Thornton, the left defensive tackle, will face two young players most of the day, center Al Johnson and right guard Andre Gurode.

"He's probably the strongest guy," Thornton said of Gurode. "He's very athletic. Both of them are pretty good."

The Bengals come in last in the NFL against the run at 155.4 yards. Tennessee's Chris Brown became the sixth individual running back to rush for 100 yards against the Bengals in seven games, and the Titans had 163 yards as a team.

Dallas is 23rd in the NFL in rush offense at 100.9 yards a game.

Even though they are seventh in the league in pass offense at 255.7 yards, the Cowboys would rather run.

Dallas opened the season with a 2-4 record, even though its 1,609 passing yards were second in franchise history through six games.

The 127 rushing yards against the Lions were second most of the season for Dallas. Former Titans tailback Eddie George, who had six 100-yard rushing games for the Titans in 13 starts against the Bengals, had 99 yards on 31 carries for the Cowboys last week.

Dallas likes to play similarly to George's old Titans teams. Run the ball early and often.

The last starter on the Cowboys line is right tackle Torrin Tucker, a college free agent who played guard at Southern Mississippi. Bengals left defensive end Duane Clemons will have the same job Smith does on the other side - guard against the outside run and force the play back inside, where help should be ready.

"It's not that they are not trying, but the fact that they are trying to take on more responsibility than their assignment requires," coach Marvin Lewis said of his defensive players. "And it is costing us."

E-mail mcurnutte@enquirer.com




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