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The VRR: "Balance" Means the Cowboys Can Pass, Run, and Play Defense

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Use the run to open up the pass...no, wait. Use the pass to open up the run.

When both means of production are working for the Cowboys' offense, BTBers can just sit on the fence and enjoy it. As Miles Austin continues to show he has developed into an explosive WR, Felix Jones' late season surge has proved to be quite the complement out of the backfield. Both of these speedy weapons have blossomed as the Cowboys hoped they would, as we hoped they would. As a topper, Tony Romo is playing smart football. Offensive balance? Check!

Getting our hopes even higher is the play of the defense. The front seven and the secondary seem to be playing in perfect harmony just as the offense's rushing and passing attacks are. Put that and the consistency of the special teams units all together, and this certainly looks to be an all-around, well-balanced team.

Bucky Brooks says that the Cowboys are balancing offensive firepower and defensive pressure to win with "old-school football".

[T]he combination of quick strikes and power runs has been the perfect complement to their emerging defense. Led by outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, the defense has been sensational during the team's hot streak, feasting on recent opponents while playing with a lead. Given the freedom to hunt quarterbacks extensively, the Cowboys' fierce pass rush has tallied at least four sacks in four straight games, while only surrendering 31 points.

Additionally, the Cowboys' secondary has blanketed opposing receivers and made it difficult for opponents to generate big plays in the passing game. With both sides of the ball playing well, the Cowboys have emerged as a legitimate title contender.

More VRR after the jump.

Some have compared the speed of Felix Jones with that of Dallas legend's, Tony Dorsett. Here's what #33 had to say about watching #28.

"When he's healthy, man, he's hell on wheels," Dorsett said. "I mean, great googly moogly."

[snip]

Dorsett's Hall of Fame career included many great moves. The 1976 Heisman Trophy winner for Pittsburgh retired after the 1988 season as the NFL's second-leading career rusher with 12,739 yards. He now ranks seventh.

"I was shiftier than Felix, but he's got great vision and footwork," Dorsett said. "The biggest difference between great runners and average ones is their reaction time. He can be great because he can see things and react in a timely manner. It's a gift you cannot teach."

Reed Albergotti of the Wall Street Journal analyzes how offenses are using the "speed of defenses against them by running misdirection plays".

Mr. Jones of the Cowboys scored two weeks in a row on similar running plays that completely fooled the Philadelphia Eagles. Saturday night, the Cowboys were in a running formation on first down at their own 27-yard line. Mr. Jones took the handoff, faked to his left and cut back to the right. Eagles linebackers Moise Fokou and Jeremiah Trotter bit on Mr. Jones's fake, but they should have known better: They had two 300-pound clues.

Dallas guards Kyle Kosier and Leonard Davis were pulling to their right—a telltale giveaway of the direction of the run. Had Messrs. Fokou and Trotter followed the guards, and not the motion of the fullback and the running back, they would have stuffed Mr. Jones for a loss. Instead, he strode 73 yards for a touchdown.

Marion Barber rested from practice today, but everybody else participated - including SS/ST-gunner Pat Watkins.

The other 52 players on the roster were on the Valley Ranch practice fields during the portion of the workout the media is permitted to watch.

Pat Watkins, perhaps the Cowboys' best special teams player, worked with the first-team punt unit as a gunner. That's an indication that he's ready to play after spending the last four weeks on the inactive list with a knee injury.

The 12-4 Vikings have a perfect 8-0 record playing at Hubert H. Humphrey Mall of America Field. The Cowboys, though, aren't too shabby of a road team this season.

The Cowboys have been pretty good on the road. Two of their five losses were at home. They had more false starts at home than they did on the road. They won in the Superdome at New Orleans on Dec. 19.

The Cowboys will practice with music and artificial noise this week, including at least one day indoors at Cowboys Stadium.

In the divisional round of the playoffs, home teams have not fared well recently.

But over the last six seasons, the home teams in the divisional round have had a tough ride, winning only 13 of the 24 games, or just 54 percent of the time. Only once in that time -- 2004 -- did all four home teams survive the divisional round.

Brett Favre spoke highly about the Dallas D.

"A lot of teams are building that 3-4 scheme, and you've just got to have the guys to do it. Well they have the guys to do it. Two outstanding pass rushers, a stud nose guard. I really like their 'backers, not as old as me, but a couple of those guys are a little old and savvy. Newman has been a mainstay there and is playing outstanding, but 21's going to be a superstar in this league for a long time."

Farve, as any quarterback should, envisions his team as the winner this weekend.

"Honestly, I see us sitting here next week having this press conference again," Favre said, per Judd Zulgad of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "If that doesn't happen, to me it will be a shock."

Flozell Adams knows that he's got to bring his "A" game against Jared Allen this week.

Allen is simply a different player at home with help from the crowd at the raucous Metrodome. Consider that 9 1/2 of his sacks came at home. He also had three of his five forced fumbles at the Metrodome.

"He’s a phenomenal player," Adams said. "I look forward to playing against him."

It’s a key matchup, considering Adams’ career-long penchant for false starts, especially on the road. Adams, who had 12 penalties this season, was second on the Cowboys with six false-start infractions. The good news for the Cowboys is that he seemingly has cleaned up his act in all areas lately.

Vikings CB Antoine Winfield (foot) may not be 100%, but Brad Childress plans to use him often this week. Whether he lines up more on the outside or in the slot, still remains to be determined.

Winfield's right foot injury prompted the Vikings to reduce his role in the regular season finale against the New York Giants. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Benny Sapp and took the slot position in the nickel defense package for that game.

He sure is a tough player, but the thought of the 6'3" Miles Austin matched up against the 5'9" Winfield excites me.

The Vikings have a breakout WR of their own in third-year player Sidney Rice.

"He's a jumper, kinda like a basketball player out there," Cowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins told Dallas reporters when describing Rice. "(They) try to throw a lot of jump balls out there."

Said Rice: "Any time the ball is in the air, I feel like it's mine ... no matter where it's at. If I have to fight with the defender the whole way down the field, that's what I'm going to do to make the play."

As discussed in Fish's post yesterday, Vikings fans are reminded this week about the game in which the "Hail Mary" defeated the "Purple People Eaters".

Staubach put so much into selling the fake that he nearly lost control of the ball. He held on, but awkwardly, which is why he underthrew the pass.

And that leads to the next layer of Vikings fans' ire.

Pearson slowed to catch it and bumped into cornerback Nate Wright as they jumped for the ball. Wright landed on the ground while Pearson felt the ball go through his arms. Somehow, he actually pinned it to his hip _ a la David Tyree and his head in the Super Bowl two years ago. Pearson turned and scampered the last few yards into the end zone, then the former college quarterback heaved the ball into the crowd.

Here's how much the players make for each playoff game:

[M]embers of the Vikings' active roster will get $21,000 for participating in this Sunday's NFC divisional playoff game against Dallas. The Cowboys, who earned $21,000 for participating in last Saturday's wild-card game against Philadelphia, will make the same on Sunday.

A victory by the Vikings would mean a trip to the NFC Championship Game and a pay day of $38,000 per player. The Super Bowl winner will get $83,000 and the loser will get $42,000.

The Cowboys' blowout of the Eagles helped NBC kick some network ratings butt.

With Saturday's Dallas Cowboys-Philadelphia Eagles NFL playoff game averaging 32.12 million viewers, NBC averaged 10.34 million viewers for its prime-time programming between Jan. 4 and Sunday, according to figures released Tuesday by the Nielsen Co. NBC's last ratings victory came the week of Jan. 26 to Feb. 1, 2009, when it aired the Super Bowl.

The league fined Ken Hamlin $12,500 today for his hit on Eagles TE Brent Celek.

David Buehler may have been the most excited guy on the field when Kevin Ogletree covered his kickoff with speedy violence.

Some of you may have noticed that Buehler began a wild celebration Saturday when reserve wide receiver Kevin Ogletree raced down the field on a kickoff in the first quarter and destroyed Eagles return man Victor "Macho" Harris. The Eagles' starting safety was forced to leave the game. I asked Buehler what led to his wild display that brought back memories of Martin Gramatica, a man who could celebrate the smallest of achievements.

"Ogletree's my roommate and he'd been telling me all week that he was going to have a huge hit on special teams," said Buehler. "I didn't expect that at all, because it's not like he's a real physical guy. I just got really excited for him."

At daybreak, on Aprill 11, Texas Stadium will be imploded. The event will be broadcast live on the Internet.

Four cameras will be fixed outside the stadium, and two inside the stadium to chronicle the 37-year-old giant's last moments.

Remember to vote for Emmitt, Haley, and "Too Tall" on fanschoice.com. It's the final round. 24 days to make your HOF vote heard. Your votes also enter you in the sweepstakes to win a VIP trip to the 2010 HOF Enshrinement Ceremony!

Also, a preview of the game from SB Nation.