Tim Yotter: Besides the Patriots having dominating personnel, was there something that came out of that Dallas Cowboys-New England Patriots matchup that showed something other teams can exploit with Dallas?
Roy Philpott: I told our good friend Jon Scott at PatriotsInsider.com last week in this very same column that the Dallas pass defense is something that leaves much to be desired, especially on deeper routes. Free safety Ken Hamlin was signed during the offseason to assist Roy Williams deeper down the field, and he has helped, but there are still issues when the opposition decides to go downfield. For example, we saw Tom Brady connect with Dante Stallworth for a 69-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter Sunday against New England. That was one of the biggest plays of the game and Stallworth made reserve corner Jacques Reeves look foolish on the play. There were also two touchdown passes to Wes Welker, one from 35 yards out. Simply put, this team still has problems covering the deep ball.
Of course, Dallas has the top cover corner in the league in Terence Newman, but there are still issues deep downfield, and that's true even if starting corner Anthony Henry is healthy (and he missed the New England game).
TY: The columnists and talk radio are having some fun locally with Brad Childress calling Adrian Peterson the Vikings' No. 2 running back. Since Marion Barber played at the University of Minnesota and is having the success he is in Dallas, would you consider him the Cowboys' No. 2 running back?
RP: No, I wouldn't. Barber is slowly taking over the starting running back position in Dallas. He's not as good a runner in the open field as Julius Jones, but he brings a certain toughness to this offense that has been missing in recent years. He'd rather hit you in the mouth than scoot out of bounds to avoid a big collision. Plus, he's one of the best backs in the league in the red zone. We've seen several teams in the league go with two running backs, similar to Dallas, but I think you'll see an increased role for Barber as we go through the season, with Jones spelling him later in games. The stats would support my argument, as Barber has 385 yards rushing compared to just 268 for Jones (on four less carries as well).
TY: Has there been any tension between the two running backs there about their time split?
RP: Not really. These guys are competitors and they both want to be on the field, but they both also appreciate the fact that they can remain fresh for four quarters because neither will carry the ball 30 times a game. Barber isn't a huge talker to the media, so if he's ill because Jones continues to start, nobody would know about it. But he's fine with it, and I think Jones is as well.
TY: What's been the secret element to keeping Terrell Owens quiet –at least off the field – so far this year?
RP: The change in the coaching staff has something to do with this. History has shown Owens does pretty well in the first year with a coaching staff and the change to a more laid back Wade Phillips has had a positive influence on T.O. Maybe more importantly, Owens really likes Tony Romo. He likes the fact he can make plays when the pocket breaks down and he likes the fact that he's usually Romo's first option on the deeper routes. The two have developed a chemistry and as a result, Owens is comfortable where he is right now with this team.
TY: The Cowboys have the second-best third-down efficiency in the league, converting 46.8 percent. What's been the key to that?
RP: One of the keys has been play-calling. New offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has called several brilliant games and he's shown he can make the necessary halftime adjustments to put an extremely large number of points on the board in the second half. (Case in point: 21 points against St. Louis, 31 points against Chicago and 27 against Miami.)
Obviously Tony Romo has also played a big part in Dallas being so successful on third down. If you blitz him, he can move around and buy that all-important extra second or two to get the ball downfield. He seems to be able to sense backside pressure as well and that is obviously a very big key in avoiding sacks. Or he can scramble to pick up the first down with his mobility.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of VikingUpdate.com and Roy Philpott is the publisher of RanchReport.com.
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