Cowboys need to give passing game a chance

Updated: January 2, 2004, 11:35 AM ET
By By Football Scouts, Inc. | For ESPN Insider
Editor's note: After a week of watching film, Football Scouts, Inc., takes an second look at each NFL playoff match-up.

  • The Cowboys must avoid third-and-long situations on offense. Carolina's defensive line is far more effective applying pressure on opposing quarterbacks when it doesn't have to worry about the run. The Cowboys also need to throw on first and second downs at times, as well. This will help neutralize the Panthers' pass rush by keeping it off balance, and that will give QB Quincy Carter more time to go through his progressions.

  • Both of these teams are built to play close games, and neither is good at playing from behind. They will play this game very conservatively, hoping to win with a strong run game and good defensive effort. As a result, the outcome may be decided by one or two big plays (positive or negative) in the passing game. The Panthers do a better job of "finishing" games in the fourth quarter.