Way, way back in the 1990's -- you remember them, don't you? -- the Cowboys had such a diverse offense that you didn't know who to defend first.
Shut down Emmitt Smith and you'd still have to worry about guys like Michael Irvin. Concentrate on Irvin and tight end Jay Novacek would burn you. Go after Troy Aikman to short-circuit the passing game, and Smith would tear you apart for, like, 500 rushing yards, not to mention his prowess in the short passing game.
Now, we're not going to dare to compare the current Cowboys team with those Super Bowl squads. Even Tony Romo wouldn't go that far. Let's just say that when the Giants line up Sunday night, this group will be facing a more diverse team than it did last season. And that could lead to some defensive troubles if the balance coordinator Bill Sheridan gets upset in some manner.
Last season was pretty cut and dry. You had Marion Barber in the backfield and Terrell Owens at wide receiver. Those were the two guys you worried about. Tight end Jason Witten had become almost an afterthought in that offense, as Romo had to bend this way and that to mollify Owens. The areas that had to get the defense's utmost respect were limited.
The mouthy wideout isn't there anymore, however. Instead, former B-listers like Roy Williams and Patrick Crayton and Miles Austin are being called upon. Witten has risen anew as a prime target. And the running game has a three-headed attack behind Barber and the now-experienced Felix Jones and Tashard Choice.
The players may not be Hall of Fame quality. But the diversity is there.
"It makes it a little tougher because we're not just focusing on one guy," middle linebacker Antonio Pierce said.
"They have a lot of different wide receivers that can show up and make big plays for them," defensive end Justin Tuck said. "If anything, I think Romo looks a little bit more comfortable and I think with a guy like T.O he has to get a certain number of balls his way and a number of catches to keep a guy like him happy."
Pierce said Romo could be more relaxed these days, which means it will be incumbent upon the Giants' defense to make him unrelaxed through pressure.
"I know his ears don’t hurt as much," Pierce said. "Our job is that if he is throwing the ball to #84 (Crayton), #19 (Austin), #80 (tight end Martellus Bennett), #82 (Witten) and all those other guys, we have to get them down and make more plays than they do."
Romo is certainly spreading the ball around more. Seven receivers caught passes last week against Tampa Bay. Granted, the Bucs are one of the worst teams in the league. But the fact is Romo and his diverse receiving corps completed five passes of 20 yards or more, four of which went for 42 or longer, and three of which produced touchdowns. A defensive breakdown here or there could be deadly.
Then again, I seem to remember a particular team in Super Bowl XLII that beat a diverse point-scoring machine with close pass coverage and timely blitzing. Could work at the Boss Hog Bowl, don't ya think?
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