The Dallas Cowboys faced an Eagles team last week that runs the ball with the consistency of a Halley's Comet sighting, which is to say, in the context of an NFL game, almost never. This week will represent a shift in opposing philosophy.
Brett Favre will inevitably get a large chunk of the headlines, but Dallas's defense will have to prepare in equal measure for a large chunk of Adrian Peterson, widely thought to be one of the two best backs in football (along with Tennessee's Chris Johnson), and certainly the best their defense has faced this year.
The ultimate ratio of run to pass matters only so much when dealing with a runner like Peterson, who can take what seems to be the most harmless of runs, and turn it into six points before anyone really knows what just happened. The Cowboys, to be sure, will be cognizant of this in their preparation.
"You need to commit to the running game with that guy. He’s such a tremendous talent. He’s done everything already and still doing more," said head coach Wade Phillips."You have to gang tackle and have to have great pursuit. Speed on defense is really a key because if you’re a little bit slow and he gets through there, he’s gone."
Regardless of the outcome, this is the sort of match-up that playoff dreams are made of, for fans. Peterson, despite coming back to Earth in the latter part of the season, rushed for 1,383 yards this year; Dallas's defense has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher. But according to Igor Olshansky, this stat does little to inflate the confidence of the unit.
"You've just got to work on your technique and do what [you] do and work on your calls to the best of [your] ability and be physical, dominate the line of scrimmage and control Peterson," said Olshansky. "He's a great back and they have a great offensive line but we have some good players as well, so it'll be a great challenge.