Friday, January 15, 2010

Felix Jones a 'home-run' threat for Dallas

By Roy Lang III
Louisiana Gannett News
January 15, 2010

Felix Jones looks like he's going the distance every time he touches the football lately. That's probably because, in his mind, he has plenty of ground to make up.

Plagued by injuries for his first season-and-a-half in the NFL, Dallas' running back and former first-round pick is healthy and running hog wild. Saturday, Jones recorded the best postseason debut in franchise history and the Cowboys' third-best playoff performance overall.

He's the most dangerous -- perhaps most humble -- element of the three-headed backfield the Cowboys will take to Minnesota for Sunday's NFC Divisional playoff game.

"He's got the ability to hit the home run," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "He can turn on the jets and change angles on a defense. Any defense you're talking about is trying to prevent those explosive runs."

Philadelphia didn't do that in Saturday's wild-card matchup. Jones' 16-carry, 148-yard performance included a 73-yard touchdown. It was Jones' first 100-yard effort since he and teammate Darren McFadden torched SEC defenses at Arkansas.

"Going through the things I went through this season, it just built up," Jones said. "It just so happened to be the postseason where the best comes out of me."

Reflecting on Saturday's performance, the 6-foot, 218-pounder thoroughly praised his faith and his teammates. He also provided insight into his internal struggles since signing a $10.5-million contract.

Jones missed the final 10 games of his rookie season with hamstring and toe injuries. Jones averaged more than 10 yards per carry in his first three games this season until the injury bug -- a strained knee -- cost him a pair of games in early October.

The Cowboys, without a playoff win in 13 years, had something to prove down the stretch. So did Jones.

"It's hard to put it in words," said Jones, the 22nd overall pick in 2008. "How much we love this game, how hard we work. It all pays off. We have a great deal to deal with."

In his last seven games, Jones has averaged 6.2 yards a carry (78 for 480 yards) and has scored from 46, 49 and 73 yards out.

"I'm more into my teammates, we're all making big plays, executing and having fun -- that's what it's all about," he said.

Saturday, Jones left Cowboys Stadium with a rushing performance surpassed only by franchise legends Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith. Dorsett ran for 160 yards against the Los Angeles Rams in 1980 while Smith ripped off 150 yards against Green Bay in 1996.

His 73-yard score marked the longest in Cowboys' postseason history (Smith held previous record with a 65-yard run at Minnesota in 2000) and certainly ranked at the top of Jones' list.

With the Cowboys leading 24-7 in the third quarter, Jones took a handoff from Tony Romo and headed right to stretch the defense. After tight end Martellus Bennett and Pro Bowl guard Leonard Davis secured blocks, No. 28 made his cut and sprinted free down the sideline.

"I just saw green grass thanks to those guys," Jones said.

Dallas rushed for 196 yards, but things may not come as easy Sunday. The Vikings are the NFL's second-best run defense (87.1 yards per game).

Minnesota's running game isn't too shabby, either, boasting Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor. Jones was asked if the nickname "All Night" should apply (Peterson's is "All Day") following Saturday's primetime performance.

"That's kind of big to take a name from a guy who's been doing things in the NFL," Jones said. "It would be an honor if you want to call me that, but I don't mind sticking with Felix Jones."

Neither do the Dallas Cowboys.