DB Viewers Guide: Cowboys stoppable on third downs, but...

DB Viewers Guide: Cowboys stoppable on third downs, but...
December 8, 2013, 9:30 am
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For all of the talk about difficulties the Bears have had stopping the run, and the Dallas Cowboys certainly could join the parade of teams running the Bears literally and figuratively out of the building. The Bears know what they are probably getting with Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and the Cowboys:

“They’re a passing team,” said safety Chris Conte. “That’s what they want to do. They’ve got Tony Romo, paid him a lot of money, so….”

The Cowboys are 23rd in the NFL at converting third downs and the Bears at least managed to hold the Minnesota Vikings to 24 percent on third downs in last Sunday’s loss, getting their “stop” rate below 40 percent for the year.

[LB Viewers Guide: Good run fits may not be enough]

But the Vikings were 3-for-3 on fourth downs, including a game-turning conversion in the fourth quarter on a fourth-and-11.

That was not the only disaster on Minnesota’s drive for a tying field goal. Matt Cassel completed passes for 20, 24, 17 and 21 yards, the last three on successive snaps. The Bears have now allowed 48 pass plays of 20 yards or longer through 12 games after allowing 47 all last season.

They have allowed 57 rushing plays of 10 or more yards. For all of 2012 the defense gave up 53.

“It’s really, technique and fundamentals, we cannot beat ourselves,” said defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. “That’s going to be huge. To do a great job in the running game, we’ve got to be physical. We’ve got to do a better job tackling and not giving up big plays, make them go the long, hard way.”

[DL Viewers Guide: 3rd-down conversions potential weak spot]

Romo is among the poorer third-down passers, completing just 49 percent of his throws then. But Bryant is tied for 10th in the NFL with 68 receptions and has nine touchdowns, while Jason Witten has gotten to 800 catches and 9,000 yards faster than any tight end in NFL history.

What to look for: The Bears are 2-4 over the last six games despite holding five of the six opponents to a pass-completion percentage of less than 59 percent. The secondary has been called upon more for run support and come up wanting, with none of the last seven opponents averaging less than 4.2 yards per carry.

That said, the Cowboys are 5-0 over the past seven games when Bryant catches five or more passes. If the Bears can keep Romo in third-down difficulties and prevent Bryant from bailing him out of those situations, “when we get a chance to get off the field on 3rd down,” Tucker said, “we’ve got to do it.”