After a strong performance in their victory over the New York Giants in the season opener, the Dallas Cowboys head to Kansas City.
Defensive end Anthony Spencer is expected to play. So too is newly-acquired guard Brian Waters. They should help a Cowboys team that will look to move to 2-0 for the first time since 2008. Here is a look at how the Cowboys and Chiefs match up:
When the Cowboys run
The Cowboys’ commitment to their ground game remains in question after they attempted 49 passes and only 23 runs in a 36-31 victory over the New York Giants last Sunday. But at least there seemed to be signs of improvement from last season. DeMarco Murray rushed for 86 yards – a higher total than he produced in all but two games in 2012. Murray will be challenged by the Chiefs, who had three linebackers – Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson and Justin Houston – selected to the 2012 Pro Bowl.
When the Cowboys pass
Tony Romo’s condition is a concern after he suffered bruised ribs in Dallas’ victory over the Giants last Sunday. Romo, after all, remains the engine of the offense. He threw 49 times against the Giants, accounting for 263 passing yards and two touchdowns. Jason Witten and Miles Austin thrived, making a combined total of 18 catches. But Dez Bryant was held in check and he is dealing with a sprained left foot. Now he’ll face a Chiefs defense that surrendered the fewest passing yards – 107– of any NFL team in Week 1.
When the Chiefs run
Kansas City received a bit of a scare when Jamaal Charles suffered a bruised quadriceps last Sunday in the Chiefs’ 28-2 victory over Jacksonville. But Charles is expected to play and that is good news for Kansas City. Charles, a two-time Pro Bowler, has three 1,000-yard rushing seasons since being drafted out of Texas in 2008. Dallas, which allowed only 50 rushing yards against the Giants’ weak backfield, will face a stiffer test Sunday.
When the Chiefs pass
Quarterback Alex Smith’s debut with the Chiefs wasn’t spectacular. But it was efficient as he completed 21 of 34 pass attempts for 173 yards and two touchdowns. Smith did a good job of distributing the ball as nine different Chiefs players made receptions. The Cowboys, who yielded 450 passing yards to Eli Manning but made three interceptions, hope to be stingier than they were against the Giants but just as opportunistic as they were last Sunday.
The Cowboys’ special teams looked much better than they did in the preseason. They recovered a fumble on a punt and Dan Bailey made each of his three field goal attempts. That’s no surprise for Bailey, who was the second-most accurate kicker in the NFL last season. Ryan Succop, Bailey’s counterpart on the Chiefs, wasn’t nearly as good, making only 82.4 percent of his tries in 2012. Of course the Chiefs have Pro Bowl punter Dustin Colquitt, who surprisingly has the worst net average in the NFL through one week.
Much is made of the supposed home-field advantage Kansas City’s crowd creates for the Chiefs. Arrowhead is regarded as one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL. But visiting teams have had success there. Since 2000, the Chiefs are 54-50 at Arrowhead. Twenty teams, including the Cowboys, have better winning percentages on their home field during the same period. Dallas, which is 2-2 against the Chiefs at Kansas City, shouldn’t be intimidated.