The dichotomy in December. This week much has been made about the Chargers ability to win in the final month of the season. The Cowboys… you know the tale.
“It’s a different year, a different team,” you can attribute that quote to basically any Cowboy. Each has said something similar in every interview. So what do you do to make this a different game? Right now, the Chargers are playing consistently better than any other team in the league (sorry Saints, Vikes, Colts).
But what are they doing that is winning games instead of losing them? Seven in a row, three losses total. One of the things that stands out, and gives credence to the thought they’re playing consistently better than any other team is that there’s no obvious button that they pushed. No obvious anything that just clicked for a 2-3 team that turned them into a 9-3 team.
LaDainian Tomlinson has been able to find the end zone more consistently, with 8 of his 9 touchdowns on the season coming in the streak. However, his yards per carry vary between 1.83 and 4.00 during the streak. He didn’t just flip the switch.
Antonio Gates has had good games, and not-so-good games.
Perhaps their defense tells the story? Possibly, in each of their losses they allowed over 30 points. In their 9 wins, no team has eclipsed that number. In fact, over the last 7 games they are allowing just under 14 points per game.
That’s the trouble. There is no obvious deficiency to exploit.
Can the Cowboys put up 30 points? Perhaps. If you follow the Cowboys, you surely know that they have not had their best output against teams running the 3-4 defense this season. Peculiar since the offense faces it every day in practice. You also, then, know the importance of the outside backers. Both Shaun Phillips and Shawne Merriman are nicked up headed into the game.
Safety Eric Weddle also is feeling the length of the season, and as a Cowboys fan, you know that defective safety play can result in bad things happening to the defense.
That is part of the lesson from this game. These teams are quite similar. Constructed similarly. This week you’ve heard plenty of Norv v. Wade talk.
In the streak, they have kept Philip Rivers clean. They have given up just six sacks in the last 7 games. In the losses – 10.
Can the Cowboys get to Rivers? Calling for five sacks is probably a bit much, but shutting out the Cowboys on the pass rush is probably too much for the Chargers to ask.
Turnovers. Same story. One in the last four weeks, and a +9 mark in the streak.
The opponents? Well, two victories against the NFC East, four against the little sisters of the NFL and a first-place showdown with the Broncos. Not a list of exceptionally great opponents, but nothing that is out of the ordinary that says another good team would easily be 7-0 over the same stretch.
Consistently good. That’s the only way to describe the Chargers for the last 2 months. Not great. Good.
The Chargers only have the 12th most yards in football. They have the third most points. The inverse of the Cowboys, who are third in yardage, but barely crack the top 10 in points. That suggests a
I started this exercise today hoping to find the silver bullet. Hoping to find something in the minutiae that the Cowboys could exploit. Even a tidbit. There’s nothing there. Score 30 points. That’s what teams did to beat San Diego this year. That’s not exactly great analysis.
Of course, the good news from a Cowboys perspective is that a similar study from the Chargers perspective doesn’t yield any better results.
So how do the Cowboys win on Sunday? Well sometimes the obvious is over looked in football discussion because of the consistency of results. The Cowboys are a good team. The Chargers are a consistently good team. When you have a match up such as this, the game comes down to who can do the best job in three areas: Win the field position battle. Get more turnovers. Get to the quarterback.
That’s what makes the NFL great. For all the big plays, broken tackles and crushing hits; To win, you have to do those three things week-in, week-out.
Prediction: Cowboys 31 – Chargers 28