After their Week 9 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, the Dallas Cowboys were 3-5 and their chances for the playoffs looked less than weak, while quarterback Tony Romo and head coach Jason Garrett were under fire.
Since then Dallas is peaking at the best possible time, going 5-1 in their last six games with a chance to capture the NFC East crown should they win their final two.
While Sunday’s matchup against the New Orleans Saints poses a huge threat to the Cowboys' playoff hopes, Dallas has proven over the last six weeks they can overcome adversity on and off the field.
Below are four keys Dallas should focus on in order to stay in the playoff hunt.
DeMarcus Ware Needs To Be More Aggressive
Ware was fined Thursday by the NFL for a fourth quarter hit on Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but the All-Pro and Cowboys sack-leader cannot let that affect his game.
Ware has just 2.5 sacks during the Cowboys hot run, but can feed off of linebacker Anthony Spencer, who has recorded seven of his 10 sacks this season in that same stretch.
The Saints offense is all Drew Brees all the time, and Ware, Spencer and the rest of Dallas' frontline must get to him early and often.
Romo has returned to top form in Dallas's last six games. He's thrown 12 touchdown passes, which more than doubled his output for the season, and has four games of 300-plus yards passing.
Romo has also been sacked 18 times and hit another 43. So far this season the Cowboys offensive line has conceded 32 sacks.
The fact that Romo has taken so much punishment, it's a wonder he's playing at this high a level.
The Saints are currently tied for 23rd in the league in sacks, which doesn’t make their pass rush especially formidable, but neither do the Washington Redskins who are ranked 28th. Washington sacked Romo twice and hit him another 10 times in Dallas Thanksgiving loss.
Contain the Middle of the Field
The Saints routed Tampa Bay 41-0 last week, with three of Brees’ four touchdown passes at nine-yards or less.
Every defense in the NFL tries to prevent the big play down field, but the Cowboys can focus on New Orleans’ “mid-range” passing game, especially on running back Darren Sproles. Sproles has 60 receptions for 484 yards and six touchdowns this season.
DeMarco Murray Please Stand Up
The Cowboys woes in the running game have been well documented this year, as they are 31st in the league in rushing. Still the Saints are also ranked 31st against the run, giving up 146.3 rushing yards per game.
Since returning against Philadelphia in Week 13, running back DeMarco Murray has rushed for 83, 53, and 81 yards, but has a chance to breakout against New Orleans pourous defense.