In speaking with the Dallas area media, the Indianapolis Colts head coach, Chuck Pagano, was adamant that his staff fully expects NFL leading rusher DeMarco Murray to play on Sunday. Pagano indicated that the Colts are preparing to stop the Cowboys feature back and will adapt their strategy if #29 does not go against them. They are chosing to err on the side of caution.
Even if Murray does not play, Pagano is well aware that the Cowboys have other options that his defense will have to contend with as well. The Indy coach expressed considerable respect for the unique combination of passion and talent that is Dez Bryant.
"He's a nightmare. He's one of the most competitive guys that we've seen. He's a great talent. He's a great player. He's a combination of size, athleticism and speed. But his competitive nature and his drive and his passion for the game and for his team and for winning is second to none. The guy's a monster." - Chuck Pagano
There are a lot of defensive backs around the league that would tend to agree with Pagano's accessment, including Bryant's most recent victims, the Philadelphia Eagles secondary that surrendered three touchdowns to the Pro Bowl wide receiver.
Still a great receiver is useless if a team cannot get the ball into his hands. The Colt's head coach showed similar respect for the man who will be charged with doing that for the Cowboys:
"He's still got that Houdini in him where he can get out of harm's way and still extend plays and find guys down the field. Tony's playing great football. For 12 years in, his numbers are fabulous. He's managing the game extremely well. He's doing a great job and he plays hurt. He plays tough. He plays strong. Tremendous amount of respect for Tony and what he's been able to accomplish through the course of his long, long career. He's playing as good as he's played. He's playing really well, and we've got our hands full."
Pagano also referenced Jason Witten, and with good reason. Not only is Witten a future Hall Of Famer, but tight end is a position that the Colts have struggled to defend this season. They have surrendered quite a few scores to opposing TE's this season, and they will not face a QB-TE tandem more in tune with each other than are Romo and Witten.
Things all add up to a big challenge for the Indianapolis defense, one that will be compounded if Murray is also added to the mix.
"Obviously (Dez) and Tony are on the same page, much like Tony and Jason (Witten) are and have been on the same page for years and years. It's a heck of a challenge to Vontae (Davis) and Greg (Toler) and our entire secondary. It's going to take all hands on deck to just try to contain (Dez) and make sure that he doesn't wreck the game."