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

DL Viewers Guide: 3rd-down conversions potential weak spot
December 7, 2013, 11:30 pm
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Defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff was very clear last week that he was not looking at the Dallas game with any special venom in mind because the Cowboys had given up on him in the form of his release in October. After all, how angry should someone be toward an organization that signed you to two contract extensions topping out at $60 million?

“Everybody’s still trying to make a big deal about that,” Ratliff said. “To me, it’s just another game. As they said, we’re moving on. So have I. And that’s the end of it. 

“I’m just going to go out there and whenever my number’s called, just give it everything I’ve got for how ever many reps I’m out there.”

[RECEIVERS VIEWERS GUIDE: Forgotten Bennett a missing factor in pass game]

Ratliff’s significance has less to do with the Cowboys than with the Bears, however. He played 23 snaps against the Minnesota Vikings and is expected to play as much as double that against Dallas. He is not expected to start Monday night but has a resume that dwarfs the rest of the Chicago defensive line with the exception of Julius Peppers and if he is not starting by Cleveland, consider that a surprise.

Ratliff’s expanded duty has sent Corey Wootton back out to defensive left end more, with the effect that both the run defense and pass rush should improve significantly.

What to look for: Dallas is eighth in sacks allowed but not running the ball effectively. The Bears started reasonably well against the Vikings (16 first-half passing yards) before hemorrhaging yardage in the second half.

[OL VIEWERS GUIDE: Facing an entirely new front]

The Cowboys are expected to test the dismal Bears run defense and the goal is putting Tony Romo in third-and-longs with the Cowboys ranked 23rd in third-down conversions.

“We’re to the point now where we’re there to make the play,” said defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. “We just have to finish. We’re not talking about missed fits as much now as we were talking about maybe a couple of weeks ago. Now, we have to be more physical at the point of attack. We have to get off blocks. We have to make tackles. We’re there to make plays and we’re going to make those.”