Aside from just the overall speed of the Dallas defense, those along the New England offensive line are expecting to see a lot of blitzing and pressure from the Cowboys number-one ranked aggressive defensive attack.
"That's just their defensive scheme," rookie center **Dan Koppen** said. "They try to get you in the situations that they want to come after you. Last week against Buffalo it just sort of came out that they were in that situation a lot. They were able to make plays and it was really noticeable in that game."
One of the things that helps the Cowboys get into situations where they can bring the pressure is that among all the other superlatives Dallas is one of the better teams in the NFL in first down defense. Forcing opponents into second-and-long situations plays right into their defensive plans.
Watching last week's Cowboys, Bills game during his time off, that pressure and swarming attack was the first thing drew guard Damien Woody's attention as Dallas pressured former teammate Drew Bledsoe.
"They were bringing a lot of pressure up the middle against Drew and they were singling the DBs one-on-one against their receivers and Drew couldn't even get the ball off," Woody said. "I am sure that's something Bill [Belichick] is going to address with us and something we're going to have to handle in order to be successful."
And addressing that pressure probably starts right up the middle with the likes of Woody, Koppen and Joe Andruzzi. The ability of those guys to give Tom Brady time to find his receivers will likely be one of the games within the game that will decide Sunday's battle of 7-2 teams.
Word of the Law
Patriots Pro Bowl cornerback **Ty Law**, a guy who came into the NFL as a first-round draft pick under **Bill Parcells** gives a lot of the credit for Dallas' success this season to his former coach, but also believes you can't underestimate the talented players on the Cowboys roster.
"You can give coaches a lot of credit but you also have to give credit to the players," Law said. "You have to have the talent to go out there and execute the plays. Coach Parcells has a way of getting the most out of each one of his players. Terry Glenn seems like he's on the top of his game right now. Joey Galloway, Antonio Bryant and the quarterback can throw and scramble. So they have a pretty good offense, a damn good offense, and it just took somebody to get them going and it was Coach Parcells."
That's why in the end Law, like just about everyone else in the New England locker room, isn't looking at Sunday night's matchup as a battle of coaches, Bill vs. Bill.
"It's not going to be about Coach Parcells because he isn't going to be on the field," Law said. "They have a lot of talent on their team and I know he's going to have them prepared. It's going to be a good battle. They're hot, we're hot and there's going to be a lot of hard hitting going on out there."
According to various published reports the Patriots were one of 16 teams to place a claim on former Browns wide receiver Kevin Johnson yesterday. Under the rules of the NFL claim process Johnson was awarded to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the team with the poorest record that had placed a claim on the former 1999 second-round pick. … Upon acquiring Johnson, the Jaguars waived veteran wideout J.J. Stokes. … Reading High School's Tom Kasprzak was named the New England Patriots High School Coach of the Week in recognition of his team's come-from-behind road victory over Burlington. The Rockets came back from a 20-0 deficit to earn a 36-35 victory on a touchdown and two-point conversion with less than two minutes to play in the game. The New England Patriots Charitable Foundation will donate $1,000 to Reading High School's football program in Kasprzak's name in recognition of his selection as Coach of the Week. … The Patriots returned to padded practice action earlier this week after coming back from the four-day vacation that came thanks to the bye. Veteran linebacker Mike Vrabel thinks the contact was a good for the team. The Patriots had not been practicing in pads for most of the season due to the number of injuries that had bombarded the team, but the improving injury situation and short break allowed the coaches to bring a little bit of physicality back to the practice field this week. "I think the team responded very well to it," Vrabel said. "I think we were excited. Guys were ready to go and I thought we had a great practice. I think once you get in the situation where you start playing games you need that one day, whether it is Sunday or this situation with the bye, to come back to just get the pads on and work on timing." … Even the rookies have done an admirable job avoiding the coaching hype surrounding the game. Facing one of the biggest storylines of the year, the youngsters have stuck with the company line and focused on the action that will be taking place on the field. "We are trying not to [get caught up in the hype]," Koppen said. "The coaches have done a good job keeping us away from that. We are just going out there and we are playing the Cowboys. We are not playing Coach Parcells. We are playing the 11 guys across from us.