Despite being only the second game of the season, the Cowboys face a must-win. They were upset by the Redskins 13–7 on the road last week, and they travel to Houston next week before their bye. The Cowboys would like to gain some momentum heading into their off week. The Bears are trying to turn over a new leaf after last season’s 7–9 campaign. They won last week but not convincingly enough for their fans, who have coach Lovie Smith on the hot seat.
Keys for the Cowboys
• The Cowboys struggled scoring points last season. They were second in yards but only 14th in scoring. A big reason was their red zone production. They were 14th in red zone efficiency — 52 percent of their possessions ended in touchdowns — and 18th in red zone average points at 4.48. This season has not started any better with three red zone possessions last week against the Redskins yielding only seven points. David Buehler missed a 34-yard field goal, and the game ended with a touchdown negated by a penalty.
• Backup tackle Alex Barron had three holding penalties against the Redskins, including one that negated the potential game-winning touchdown on the final play. Starter Marc Colombo (knee) returns this week. He has been called for only four holding penalties in his career. Colombo was the 29th overall pick of the Bears in 2002. The Cowboys also will get starting left guard Kyle Kosier (knee) back this week. Their line should be better able to protect Tony Romo this week, which is key with pass-rushers Mark Anderson and Julius Peppers leading the Bears' front line.
Keys for the Bears
• Peppers was dominant last week in his first game with the Bears. Peppers, who signed a $91.5 million contact in the offseason, had a tackle, a sack, a forced fumble and two quarterback hits. He knocked Matthew Stafford out of the game. Peppers was everywhere against the Lions, lining up 34 times at right end and 17 at left end. He will face both left tackle Doug Free, who is making only his second career start at that position, and right tackle Colombo, who is returning from arthroscopic knee surgery.
• Jay Cutler didn’t have much time to throw last week, and Matt Forté didn’t have much room to run. The offensive line couldn’t protect the quarterback or open holes for the running backs. Cutler was sacked four times, and the running game averaged only 3.3 yards per carry. Left tackle Chris Williams had a tough time, allowing a sack and two quarterback hits while being flagged for a hold. Williams will have his hands full with DeMarcus Ware, who led the league in sacks with 20 two years ago and had 11 last season.
The Cowboys went 7–2 at home last season, losing to the Giants and the Chargers. Playing their home opener, the Cowboys should have a raucous crowd cheering them on in Cowboys Stadium as they try to get their Super Bowl hopes back on track. Cowboys 20-10