DALLAS — The Dallas Cowboys have a measuring stick game coming up on Sunday. The NFC East leaders go on the road to Arrowhead Stadium to face the surging Kansas City Chiefs, who have been in the last two Super Bowls.
At 6-4 and two losses at home, this might not seem like the Chiefs of the past few years under head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes, but their hot streak has put them atop the AFC West and this contest is sure to be one of the toughest games on the schedule for the Cowboys.
In addition, this could be the most anticipated game of the season, with Dak Prescott and Mahomes headlining the showdown.
Here are the keys to beating the Chiefs, who have won three in a row, in Week 11:
The Chiefs have one of the best offenses in the game, even if they haven’t been consistent this season. Perhaps that stems from the fact that they’ve had issues with turning the ball over. Kansas City has given the ball away 20 times, which is more than all but one team. On the year, the Chiefs also rank as the second worst team in turnover differential at -8.
Mahomes is tied for second in the league with 10 interceptions and has also lost two fumbles. That’s 12 turnovers from the quarterback spot and eight for the rest of the team.
However, during their three-game winning streak, the Chiefs have averaged just one turnover per contest. If the Cowboys can force Mahomes to make some mistakes, the defense needs to be ready to capitalize on those opportunities.
Make use of ground game
The past few weeks haven’t been easy sledding for the Cowboys in the running game, topping the 100-yard mark in just one of their last three contests. The Chiefs allow 114.6 yards per game on the ground and have given up over 100 yards rushing in seven of 10 weeks this season.
Starting running back Ezekiel Elliott hasn’t gone above 69 yards since Week 5 and backup running back Tony Pollard hasn’t produced more than 42 yards in his last four games. However, the tandem does have 1,108 rushing yards this season, so they remain a dangerous duo. This could be the time for the Cowboys to get their running game going again.
If Dallas wants to keep their defense off the field, and Mahomes on the sidelines, the easiest way to do that is to run the ball efficiently.
Convert on red zone opportunities
The Cowboys have the number one offense in the league, averaging 433.9 yards and 31.6 points a game. They are also fourth in both passing and rushing offense.
However, they still struggle with scoring touchdowns in the red zone. Dallas is currently 10th in the league, converting 64.71% of their trips inside the 20-yard line into six points. The number doesn’t seem bad on the surface since the Cowboys have converted on 80% and 100% in their last two games, so Kellen Moore’s group has found some success recently.
Prior to the last two games, though, the Cowboys weren’t converting enough inside the red zone, ranking just 24th in the league. Also, their offense ranks just 27th in red zone conversions on the road this season.
Against a team that can match them on offense, kicking field goals won’t get it done for the Cowboys this week. If they want to win this game against the Chiefs, the offense will need to find the endzone on their red zone trips.
Don’t let Chiefs’ weapons beat you
It sounds easy to just focus on the best players and prevent them from having great games. Obviously, they’re great players for a reason and defending them is no easy task. Yet that’s the way to beat the Chiefs. The Cowboys must force Kansas City into using their secondary options in bigger roles.
If the Dallas defense allows wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce to have big games, it’ll be a long day at Arrowhead for the Cowboys.
Defenses around the league have found out that the way to handcuff the potent KC offense is to not give up the big plays to Hill over the top and to clamp down on Kelce in the middle to ensure that Mahomes must get to his third and fourth read. This has been a path to success against the Chiefs in 2021.
Of course, aside from it being difficult to stop good players from having good games, there is the fact that the Cowboys’ defense has struggled to slow down elite offensive playmakers and tight ends.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receivers Antonio Brown and Chris Godwin each had 100-yard games and a score, while tight end Rob Gronkowski had two touchdowns. Los Angeles Chargers WR Keenan Allen had a 100-yard day and Carolina Panthers receiver D.J. Moore had a 100-yard game and two touchdowns. Rookie WR Kadarious Toney for the New York Giants had a huge game against the Cowboys, going for 189 yards.
To win this game, the Cowboys will need to play Hill and Kelce more like they did against the Vikings when they held Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson to a combined eight catches for 99 yards and just one touchdown.
Do you think the Cowboys will make it two in a row with a victory in KC? Share your predictions with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.