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Patriots-Cowboys matchup of the day: Saturday

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Recent posts by Kevin Fishbain

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Posted Oct. 15, 2011 @ 4:52 p.m. ET
By Kevin Fishbain

Here's a key matchup to watch in the Week Six game between the Patriots and Cowboys:

Patriots RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis vs. Cowboys' run defense

While most eyes will be on Rob Ryan throwing the kitchen sink at Tom Brady and the Patriots' passing game, it is crucial for New England to establish the run on Sunday — and it won't be easy.

The Cowboys bring the league's best run defense into Foxborough on Sunday. ILB Sean Lee, who has a team-leading 32 tackles, is having a breakout year in the middle of Dallas' "D," and Jay Ratliff makes things difficult up front. Dallas allows just 61.8 rushing yards a game at a clip of 3.1 yards a carry.

The Patriots' rushing attack wasn't very effective to start the season but has gotten going in a big way the last two weeks. Green-Ellis rushed for a career-high 136 yards last week in the win over the Jets, as the Pats played a physical, "ground and pound" game against the Jets' defense to milk the clock.

The blockers up front for New England are some of the best, led by OLG Logan Mankins. ORG Brian Waters has played very well in his first season in Foxborough, and look for OT Nate Solder, who has excelled in run blocking in his rookie year, to be involved as an extra blocker if he doesn't get the start.

Even though "The Law Firm" has looked good in his last two games, the Cowboys' defense will be a whole different challenge. Green-Ellis' worst game last season came against the Browns, whose defense was led by Ryan. Green-Ellis had only 14 yards on nine carries (1.6 ypc).

Look for the Patriots to try to take advantage of a Cowboys defense that may place too much emphasis on stopping the pass, allowing Green-Ellis to get some space on draw plays. If Green-Ellis gets bottled up, though, it may be one of those games where Brady needs to throw for 400 yards to get the win in what should be a shootout.

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