For Pete's Sake

Five things to know about the Chiefs’ next opponent, the Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence and outside linebacker Jaylon Smith sacked Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins during Sunday’s game.
Dallas Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence and outside linebacker Jaylon Smith sacked Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins during Sunday’s game. Tribune News Services

Fresh off their “Monday Night Football” victory, the Chiefs are heading to “Jerry World” on Sunday.

That’s the nickname for AT&T Stadium, which is the home of the Dallas Cowboys, 4-3. After starting the season with three losses in their first five games, the Cowboys have won two straight heading into the 3:25 p.m. start against the Chiefs. The game is on CBS.

During the season, I’ll provide a quick overview of the next Chiefs’ opponent early in each week, and here are a few things to know about the Cowboys.

1. Who will be Dallas’ running back?

It seems unlikely that running back Ezekiel Elliott will play Sunday after his six-game suspension was reinstated on Monday night.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram said the Cowboys will use Alfred Morris, Rod Smith and Darren McFadden in place of Elliott.

Morris, who will be Dallas’ top option, has 105 yards rushing this season in 13 attempts, Smith has 69 yards in 10 attempts, and McFadden has yet to carry the ball.

The Cowboys are second in the NFL in rushing (150.6 yards per game), but they obviously will look considerably different running the ball without Elliott.

2. The pass rush

Statistically, Dallas is in the middle of the pack in passing defense, allowing 218.9 yards per game, which ranks 15th. The Cowboys’ pass rush, however, is among the best in the NFL. Dallas is fifth in the NFL with 25 sacks.

Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence is leading the league in sacks (10.5), is tied for forced fumbles (three) and has recovered two of them. His nickname is “Tank,” for good reason.

On Sunday, Cowboys defensive tackle David Irving has two sacks and tipped a pass that led to an interception. Irving, a former Iowa State star, has five sacks on the season.

“We’re like a bunch of wild animals,” Lawrence told The Dallas Morning News. “You hit a quarterback enough times, they start looking at you like they’re expecting it again.”

3. New kicker

Dallas kicker Dan Bailey missed Sunday’s game at Washington because of a groin injury, which is supposed to keep him out of action until Thanksgiving.

Mike Nugent did a fine job as Bailey’s replacement. He made four of five field-goal attempts and all three extra-point chances.

“It is satisfying,” Nugent told The Star-Telegram after Dallas’ 33-19 win. “I have had about five or six workouts in the first eight weeks and I felt like I hit the ball really solid in training camp. It’s good to get out on the field and it’s a positive feeling to be able to feel like you contributed to a win today. I’m about that.”

4. The secondary

Dallas had an interception late in its victory at Washington on Sunday, and it was the Cowboys’ first since the second week of the season. Opponents had thrown 191 passes between Cowboys interceptions.

The Cowboys have just three interceptions on the season, which ranks 27th in the NFL.

5. Dez Bryant’s slow start

Bryant, the Cowboys’ star receiver, is having a quiet season with 32 catches for 366 yards and four touchdowns. His average yards per reception is 11.4, the lowest in Bryant’s eight seasons in the NFL.

During Sunday’s game, Fox showed Bryant on the sideline talking with coach Jason Garrett and quarterback Dak Prescott, and the CBS broadcasters speculated that Bryant was unhappy with having just two catches for 16 yards late in the first half.

Not so, Garrett told 105.3 The Fan.

“I thought it was all positive,” Garrett said, per the Dallas Morning News. “Dez has such great passion and intensity for the game. He’s into it. He loves it, he loves playing football, he loves our team. He’s just one of those guys who competes every down and in every situation to be the best. That’s something that’s so positive for us.”

Terez Paylor, the Kansas City Chiefs beat writer for The Star, gives his insights on the 16-game schedule, which was released by the NFL on Thursday, April 20.

Pete Grathoff: 816-234-4330, @pgrathoff