NEW ORLEANS - DECEMBER 19: Linebacker DeMarcus Ware #94 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates with defensive ends Jay Ratliff (R) #90 and Stephen Bowen (L) #72 after a sack against the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome on December 19, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** DeMarcus Ware;Jay Ratliff;Stephen Bowen
Over the past four weeks, the Cowboys defense has morphed from a unit that was talented but prone to ill-timed lapses into arguably the finest defense left in these playoffs. With Jay Ratliff occupying blockers inside, DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer rushing from the edges, and Bradie James and Keith Brooking stopping everything that makes it past the line, the Dallas front seven has become practically impenetrable.
It’s not a fluke. This defense now echoes that of those Wade Phillips coached when he was at San Diego: aggressive, relentless, opportunistic. And against Minnesota, they have more than their fair share of matchup advantages. But there’s one that stands out above the rest, and that is Ware going up against Vikings left tackle and sex boat captain Bryant McKinnie.
McKinnie was named to the Pro Bowl this year. I have no Earthly idea why. McKinnie is the kind of offensive lineman who gets kudos from announcers and analysts merely because he is large. You’ll hear it time and time again – “THESE VIKINGS TACKLES ARE MASSIVE!” Yes, well massive does not always translate to good. If it did, Aaron Gibson would have been a Hall of Famer.
McKinnie has had trouble with edge defenders of late, including being benched in the Carolina game after letting Julius Peppers run wild. And his run blocking hasn’t been much better. Despite Adrian Peterson’s great stats from the year, the bottom line is that he isn’t getting as many of those long edge runs as he has in year’s past. McKinnie’s failures are part of the reason why.
So keep your eye on the left side of the line Sunday afternoon. If you see Ware beating Mount McKinnie time and time again, it may be a very long afternoon for Minnesota.