How Peyton can attack Dallas

There are some major shortcomings in Monte Kiffin's defense this season

Updated: October 4, 2013, 7:50 AM ET
By Gary Horton | ESPN Insider

Peyton ManningChris Humphreys/USA TODAY SportsPeyton Manning has had his way with NFL defenses this season. Can Dallas buck the trend?

When the Dallas Cowboys fired Rob Ryan and inserted Monte Kiffin as the new defensive coordinator in the offseason, there was a lot of speculation about how this new scheme would fit. Would the players embrace it, and would it fit their current defensive personnel? Well, after four weeks it looks like the jury is still out. The transition has involved asking 3-4, man-to-man personnel to make the adjustment to the 4-3, Cover 2 zone look, preferably without a lot of blitzes. In other words, it has been a lot of rushing four, dropping seven into zone coverage.

Obviously, the Cowboys feel that their explosive offense can be dynamic if their defense just meets them halfway and doesn't give up a lot of big plays. It is a fairly simple assignment-oriented scheme, and for the first three weeks the plays produced good results with some minor glitches. However, in Week 4, they met a veteran QB in Philip Rivers, and he picked them apart to the tune of 401 yards passing and three TDs. Moreover, he exposed some weaknesses that have to be a major concern when Dallas is getting ready to face the hottest QB in recent NFL memory, Peyton Manning.

Some Cowboys fans may point to the three defensive takeaways for scores early in the season, as well as 14 sacks, and say that these are positive signs that this defense can make Peyton uncomfortable. Rather than look at those positive things that Dallas has done, I decided to look at every defensive play in the first four weeks and concentrate on how the QB attacked it, because we know that is what Peyton has been doing this week.

Here are the four fundamental looks that Dallas is going to throw at Peyton on Sunday.

Gary Horton spent 10 years in the NFL as a scout and another 10 years at the college level as an assistant coach and recruiter. He is the founder and most seasoned member of the Scouts Inc. staff, and his extensive experience at all levels of football make him an excellent talent evaluator.