"I feel good," Jones said. "I am ready to go another week. I am ready to get another win."
Because of Jones, the "still 4-7 but no longer downtrodden" Cowboys feel the same way -- not only about their chances of beating Seattle on Monday but about making a serious playoff push over the final five weeks.
The Cowboys, who have not shown game-to-game consistency all season, probably need to win four of their last five games to do so. Yet they believe they can because of the speedy Jones and the resurgent running game, which has brought balance and much-needed explosiveness to the offense and a renewed emphasis on a ball-control style of play that should also pay dividends on defense.
"I am telling you it's different now for us," said receiver Keyshawn Johnson. "We got a running game now. That helps the passing game, the offensive line and defense. We have a different feeling ... that we can be better."
It all has resulted in a contagious optimism that is now running through the team -- from the quarterback to the offense line to receivers and to the defense. Cowboys coach Bill Parcells certainly felt it against the Bears. He tied a season-best performance by the defense -- which forced four turnovers, recorded six sacks and yielded just 140 yards of offense -- to a dynamic 33-yard first-quarter touchdown run by Jones, who froze two defenders before high-stepping into the end zone.
"I think we played a lot better on defense," Parcells said. "We played with a lot more enthusiasm. I feel like everything is kinda tied together. Not just one all of a sudden this segment did better. You feel a different pulse when a defense can make a play. The whole demeanor of your team changes, say, when Julius jukes those two guys and scores. That puts a little juice in your team."
It's the kind of juice Parcells hoped to get from Jones when he selected him in the second round of the 2004 draft. The Cowboys traded their first-round pick to Buffalo for three draft choices, including the Bills' first-round choice in 2005. In moving down in the draft, the Cowboys passed on highly rated backs Steven Jackson and Kevin Jones to get the former Notre Dame star.
However, Jones missed the season opener against the Vikings with a rib injury suffered in the preseason. He fractured his shoulder the next week against the Browns, sidelining him for two months.
With Jones out, the Cowboys were unable to mount a consistent running attack -- partly because of veteran Eddie George's struggles and partly because of a lack of patience on the part of Parcells -- wreaking havoc on the team's preferred offensive philosophy.
Jones' return has brought balance back to the Cowboys offense. The 75 carries, 33 by Jones, the last two games are a season high for the team over a two-game stretch.
"I think when you have the luxury of executing a balanced attack and getting production out of both sides of it, you have a lot better chance to win than when you are one-dimensional," said Parcells, who credits trainers Jim Maurer and Britt Brown for having Jones in shape and ready to go following the injury. "We have not run the ball too well this year until the last week or so. This kid can run it."
SERIES HISTORY: 9th meeting. Cowboys lead the series 5-3. Dallas holds a 2-1 advantage in Seattle, but this is their first trip to Qwest Field. Seattle won the last meeting, 17-14 at Texas Stadium in 2002.
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