The VRR: Cowboys' Defensive Backfield Continues to Support its Front Seven

The Cowboys' secondary does all it needs to do...it just defends, baby!

Although Ken Hamlin's beef with WR Jeremy Maclin found some flagrancy, his "Hammer" moniker certainly showed its two-week effect on the rookie. As a physical free safety, Hamlin seems to have returned to his hard-hitting ways in a manner that catches the eyes of opposing receivers. He is free to play defensive quarterback/center fielder now that the Cowboys are confident in the coverage skills of CBs Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman. It also helps that SS Gerald Sensabaugh can take on whichever RB or TE offenses throw at him.

Together, this foursome has not only been supporting the front seven, but has also been finding ways to make plays of its own.

Let's not forget the progress nickelback, Orlando Scandrick, has made. In Coach Phillips' press conference today, he said that Scandrick has "settled in" to one of the toughest positions on defense. He praised him for being able to take on man-to-man assignments from a position that often sees shorter throws his way. Phillips said Scandrick has impressed with his work ethic and always keeps a high degree of confidence, which is a must for a cornerback.

More VRR after the jump.

Donovan McNabb's penchant for throwing the deep ball to one of his speedy targets has sent many a secondary to the sidelines scratching their heads. In three games against the Cowboys, though, McNabb's aerial assault produced little success.

DeSean Jackson's postgame comments lacked the "sting" he had hoped for. As Jerry Seinfeld would say, "that's a shame."

"It's embarrassing," Jackson said after the Cowboys ended a 13-year postseason win drought with a 34-14 rout of his Philadelphia Eagles. "We never planned to lose like this."

So much for Jackson's Twitter vow to "sting they ass."

Jackson's comments leading up to the game did little to affect CBs Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins. They just went out there to do what they do against any group of wideouts.

"We're just doing our job," said Jenkins, who had an interception and taunted Jackson throughout the game to talk what he tweeted. "We're expected to do that every week."

It has been apparent to all of us that Keith Brooking has made a signifcant contribution to the Dallas defense. And, he's been doing it all year. The savvy veteran LB has yet to let up, and is still leading the team's charge into the playoffs.

But the new Keith Brooking has to be feeling pretty justified about everything today. The Cowboys destroyed the Philadelphia Eagles Saturday, one more reason why I never bet any more. Brooking was strong again in the NFC playoff game, and has been an inspirational leader for the Cowboys’ this season. The new atmosphere has clearly been good for him, because it looks like he’s making more plays than he’s missing.

Even Bobby Carpenter looked impressive Saturday night. As a nickel and dime LB, his presence in the middle has helped both the secondary and the front seven. Aside from his two key fumble recoveries, he looked great in coverage and quite speedy in pass rush. Nick Eatman reviewed Carp's successful playoff past here.

Felix Jones' 73-yard TD run broke Emmitt Smith's franchise playoff record for longest run. Felix totaled 148 yards on the evening for a staggering 9.3 YPC average.

Smith held the previous record with a 65-yard run against Minnesota in 2000; Tony Dorsett had a 53-yard run against the Los Angeles Rams in 1979; Calvin Hill went 48 yards on a run against San Francisco in 1972; all three were at Cowboys Stadium to watch the Felix Jones show.

"El Gato" spoke about the play that broke Philly's back.

"I saw Leonard Davis make that block on the outside and Marc Colombo made a great block--a down block," Jones said of the 73-yard touchdown run. "It just opened up the hole, all I [saw] was green. "Thanks to those guys. They opened up a good hole for me."

Perhaps something for the team to improve upon: penalties. They sure pushed the offense back a bunch.

With 14 infractions for 112 yards, the Cowboys became the most penalized playoff winner since the Raiders had 14 penalties for 127 yards in defeating Tennessee in the 2002 season AFC title game.

As usual, CBSSports has some quick clips of Coach Phillips' and Tony Romo's postgame press conference. Just scroll down about halfway on their Dallas Cowboys team page.

Here is a little more on Marion Barber's swollen bursa sac in his left knee. The team says he will not practice until Thursday.

The injury limits Barber's range of motion, causing him discomfort as he tries to make a move and accelerate, which is why he was limited to three carries and 4 yards in Saturday's wild-card victory against Philadelphia.

From the PHEW! department...Tashard Choice was just a bit "woozy" after a fourth-quarter hit and is expected to practice fully this week.

Cowboys running back Tashard Choice did not suffer another concussion when he was knocked out of the game late in the fourth quarter against the Eagles on Saturday, according to a club source.

Hat tip to goats-milk for the FanShot.

For an insider's perspective of the atmosphere at the first ever playoff game at Cowboys Stadium, check out Immortal AFB's FanPost.

With a first-round bye, the Vikings sat back and relaxed while they watched the Cowboys destroy the Eagles. For obvious reasons, the players and coaches came away impressed with what they saw from the Cowboys.

"They are playing well," Vikings Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. "They’re running the ball and Tony’s doing some great things with the football, getting it out on time, and those guys are just clicking on all cylinders. Their defense, they are stopping them. There’s not much more you can do better as a team than what they’ve been doing the last few weeks."

Added linebacker Ben Leber: "(The Cowboys) played well and they obviously pose some problems. They are a good run offense, we’re a good run defense. So it’s going to be a great matchup there. They throw a lot of quick stuff. It might be kind of challenging for us to get pressure on them but we’ll do the best we can to everybody and anybody. We're just going to try to keep it going, take it to Minnesota the next week and do the same thing."

Brad Childress had this to say about the Cowboys:

"Dallas is a very confident team, both sides of the football and special teams," Vikings coach Brad Childress said at a news conference Sunday. "Typically, right now, you aren't playing if you are not a confident team with a little bit of rhythm, a little bit of zip."

Childress on Big D's defense:

"It's a big defense, it's an athletic defense," Childress said. "And they look like they are playing at a very high level. It's not an overly complicated (scheme), but it doesn't look like anybody is thinking either. Good things happen when you let it go, and they really are."

After holding Philly to 37 and 56 rushing yards, respectively, in the last two games, the Dallas rush defense must stay on its toes. As Coach Phillips said, "defense, get ready." LeSean McCoy, Leonard Weaver, and Brian Westbrook combined do not pose the threat that Adrian Peterson does. Nevertheless, it's inevitable we will hear Brett Favre's name many, many times this week.

Still, the Vikings won’t back away, at least in their public analysis and comments, from their intent to establish the run.

"We know that if we open holes, (Peterson is) going to hit them," center John Sullivan said. "He’s going to be successful."

The Vikings are favored by 2.5 points.

Jared Allen expected to play the Cowboys, not the Eagles, in the divisional round.

Allen and the Vikings practiced Sunday in preparation for their NFC divisional playoff game against Dallas a week later at the Metrodome. The matchup didn't come as a surprise.

"We've been focused on them," said Allen, the Pro Bowl defensive end. "I think it was kind of inevitable that we were playing Dallas."

Tim MacMahon looks ahead at the upcoming matchup between Anthony Spencer and Minnesota's rookie RT Phil Loadholt.

Spencer vs. Loadholt appears to be a major mismatch in the Cowboys' favor. Loadholt, whom the Cowboys probably would have picked if the weren't able to find a taker when they traded down and out of the second round, is a massive man who could be outmatched by Spencer's quickness.

Spencer's role defending the run is just as important as his pass-rushing presence. He's been consistently dominant as a run defender, leading the Cowboys with nine tackles for losses during the regular season and racking up two more in the playoff opener.

For Dallas area residents, Marcus Spears and Jesse Holley will attend a charity autograph signing Tuesday in Coppell.

Exciting news for boxing fans...Jerry Jones landed the Pacquiao-Clottey fight at Cowboys Stadium!

Cowboys Stadium will host its first boxing match on March 13 when Manny Pacquiao and Joshua Clottey get together for a welterweight championship bout after Jones came to an agreement with Top Rank chairman Bob Arum.

With all the fun that makes up the postseason, the sad part of it all is that it is a countdown to the end of the NFL season. In SBNation's new series, Decade of Change, Brian Galliford of Buffalo Rumblings writes on the awesomeness of pro football in his article "Eliminating Mediocrity in America's Favorite Sport".

In the article, Galliford tackles such hot topics that run across many of our minds, such as shortening the preseason, establishing and sustaining a minor pro football league, and the need for the NFLNetwork to be provided as part of basic cable service.

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