ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – When the Broncos head to AT&T Stadium on Sunday it will be the first time the Broncos and the Cowboys have played in the regular season since 2009.
Quarterback Peyton Manning has only played the Cowboys four times in his 17 year career, most recently in 2010.
So the Cowboys are a largely unfamiliar threat. Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase – who spent four years coaching with Detroit and San Francisco of the NFC – is a little bit more familiar with Cowboys.
"The good thing about the variety of coaching that we've had, a lot of these guys have played this division for us as coaches," Gase said. "Now, with the players it's different because when you're in the same place for a long time you only see these guys every four years, so for (Manning) he didn't see them a lot especially (with Dallas being) in the NFC.
"For me it was like three years in a row I saw this division. From '07, '08, '09 it was, 'Alright, I don't want to see these guys for a while.'"
Regardless, this week the Broncos have been studying the film and making preparations on the practice field for one of the toughest defenses in the league.
"There are some familiar faces," Gase said. "But at the same time there are some different guys and we're trying to figure out who they are and what kind of problems they're going to present to us."
Deciphering Dallas' Defense
The Cowboys are third in the NFL in sacks and have allowed the third-fewest rushing yards. Much of that is due to the defensive line anchored by DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher, who each have five hurries and five tackles for loss.
Gase said that the Dallas front four would probably be the "biggest challenge to date." He added that he expected them to be relentless because of his experience working with the Cowboys' Defensive Line Coach Rod Marinelli.
"From the beginning of the play to the end of the play, they're going to play all the way to the whistle," Gase said.
Ball security will be a priority for the Broncos as Gase said that the Cowboys defense, behind the philosophies of Marinelli and Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin, will be looking to force a lot of turnovers.
"You better make sure you're securing the ball if you got it because you don't know where they're coming from," Gase said. "They do a great job. They practice it—they practice it hard and it's a huge point of emphasis. That's something they've done so well over the years of making sure that ball comes out and they get on it and then they either get points or the offense is in a really good position to get points."
So far this season, the Broncos have lost five fumbles and given up just five sacks. The protection by the offensive line and Manning's ability to get the ball out quickly has helped keep the number of sacks allowed relatively low.
The Broncos will be looking for more of that come Sunday.
"I think they (offensive line) do a good job at getting on their assignment and Peyton does a great job of getting rid of the ball—that always helps," Gase said. "With what we do with our scheme, as far as our passing game, the ball does get out quick and our receivers get open fairly fast. Everybody plays a part in it. That's what can help limit your sacks."