The Dallas Cowboys will be hosting their first playoff game since 2009 against the Detroit Lions on Sunday afternoon, January 4, at AT&T Stadium. The game will showcase two teams that have had been heavily scrutinized over the past few years for coming up short in big games.
Dallas quarterback Tony Romo is 1-3 in playoff games throughout his career while Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is 0-17 versus teams above .500 on the road. Both quarterbacks have a reputation of failing to produce on the big stage, but Romo seems to have turned a new leaf as he has had perhaps his most impressive season and is being considered a Top-5 MVP candidate. Stafford, on the other hand, has been wildly inconsistent this season and has failed to raise his level of play against the top teams.
One thing Stafford and the Lions do have going in their favor is that they have won the previous two meetings between these two teams in come-from-behind fashion. Detroit erased a 24-point, second-half deficit in a 34-30 road victory on Oct. 2, 2011, in Stafford's first game in Dallas. Stafford went to high school in the area.
The Cowboys also blew a 10-point lead with less than four minutes left when Stafford scored a on a winning one-yard run with 12 seconds to go in a 31-30 win at Detroit on Oct. 27, 2013. Calvin Johnson was the main reason for that comeback victory as he posted his best statistical game with career highs of 14 receptions for 329 yards, second most in NFL history. The Cowboys will certainly focus on stopping Megatron from torching them once again. The Cowboys, however, have their own star wide receiver, Dez Bryant, who has been perhaps the best receiver in the NFC this season. He will be no simple task to cover for a Lions secondary ranked 17th in the league.
What is different about these Cowboys is that they have had the best running attack in the NFL this season behind a stout offensive line. They will continue to try to impose that same style of attack against the Lions. It will be interesting to see if the Cowboys will be able to run effectively against the Lions, who will, indeed, have Ndamukong Suh suit up for them after winning his appeal on his one-game suspension. While Suh and the Lions make up the league's best run defense all year long, they did just give up 150 yards on the ground to Eddie Lacy and the Green Bay Packers last Sunday.
The Cowboys enter Sunday's matchup on a four-game winning streak playing perhaps the best football they have played all season. They do, however, have some injury concerns with defensive tackle Henry Melton on season-ending IR and defensive end Tyrone Crawford questionable due to illness. Dallas will be looking to put major pressure on Stafford in order to minimize the level of impact a player of Calvin Johnson's caliber can produce. The Lions hope to take advantage of a questionable Dallas secondary but will need help from their offensive line to be able to give Stafford enough time in the pocket to do so. This game will come down to which team can impose its will on the line more and control time of possession. It is what the Cowboys have excelled at all season long, a trend they hope continues on Sunday afternoon.