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Chuck Pagano: The Cowboys are "a Heck of a Challenge"

The Colts players and coaches certainly know what a big test the Dallas Cowboys present, and head coach Chuck Pagano said that, "it’s going to be a heck of a challenge to see exactly where we’re at."

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Over the past four games, the Colts have faced teams that currently have a combined 19-37 record (.339) in the Jaguars, Redskins, Browns, and Texans.  Indy is on a four-game winning streak, yes, but they haven't really been tested other than by themselves.  This Sunday, however, that will change in the last real test the Colts have before the playoffs.  The Colts travel to Dallas to take on the Cowboys, who are 10-4 on the year (.714), just like the Colts.  And Indy's coaches and players certainly know what a test the Cowboys will be, particularly to the Colts' defense.

"It's going to be a heck of a challenge to see exactly where we're at," head coach Chuck Pagano said on Wednesday.  And with an offense that features Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and perhaps the best offensive line in the NFL, that's no understatement.

"They're ninth in the league in total offense," Pagano said. "Best offensive line that we'll have faced to date. They've got three number one picks on that offensive line, a left tackle as good as they get in the league. Three-headed monster in the runner Murray, the receiver Bryant and Jason Witten. Great, great players. Between those three guys, they account for 3,800 yards of their total offense and 23 of their 43 touchdowns or something like that. I know Dez has 13 touchdowns receiving, DeMarco's rushed for 11 and I think Witten's got four touchdowns. Terrance Williams on the other side is no slouch. Athletic guy, six touchdowns himself, so they've got a bunch of great players and the quarterback's playing at a really high level. Managing the offense, he's taking care of the football, 28 touchdowns, only eight interceptions. He's completing 70 percent of his passes right now, so he's playing at a high level. We've got our hands full."

The Colts players echoed Pagano's sentiments about what a tough challenge Dallas will present.  "They're an explosive offense," starting safety Mike Adams said. "They've got 88 (Dez Bryant) out there, he's a pretty good player. Including their running back, Murray, we expected to see him as is everybody else is. He's a running back, straight downhill runner, great vision. We'll have our hands full, especially with the tight end as well. Romo, he creates plays and he's hard to bring down. He creates plays and right now they're playing really well. We have to be ready for them."

Indy's best defensive player, cornerback Vontae Davis, also realizes what a challenge the defensive unit will have.  "Oh man, those guys have got players all around the field," Davis said.  "It's going to be a great test for us. We know they've got great players. Tony Romo, he's playing really well. The running back they've got speaks volumes, you see the stats. He's putting up big numbers this year."

Davis also knows what a challenge he will face individually in Dez Bryant, who Davis called "one of the best receivers in this league" and "the ultimate competitor."  Davis is looking forward to going up against Bryant on Sunday.

Inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, who said he's had the opportunity to play in "Jerry World" before, said of the Cowboys' offense that, "It's definitely going to be a challenge. This time of the year the stakes get higher and higher, and you play better teams, better quarterbacks and what have you. So this is a great challenge for us. It's going to be a playoff atmosphere going down there. Every game for them matters. I believe it's between them and Philly. I don't really know the situation but I know the stakes get higher.

"Yeah we've clinched, but we're out to keep that momentum and prove that, like you mentioned, to answer those questions that we can't play better quarterbacks, a better offense. This is probably the best offense we're going to face in terms of balance. They're able to throw the ball, they've got great tight ends, great receivers, a great running back, great O-line, so we definitely have to come prepared."

The Cowboys offense ranks in the top ten in the league in several key categories and boasts a great number of good players who could give the Colts' trouble.  Quarterback Tony Romo has completed 69.3% of his passes for 3,188 yard and 28 touchdowns against just eight picks.  Running back DeMarco Murray has rushed for 1,687 yards and 11 touchdowns while averaging 4.8 yards per carry.  Wide receiver Dez Bryant has caught 79 passes for 1,148 yards and 13 touchdowns.  Tight end Jason Witten has caught 53 passes for 564 yards and 4 touchdowns.  Wide receiver Terrance Williams has caught 32 passes for 501 yards and 6 touchdowns.  Their offense line is quite possibly the best in the league.  So when the Colts talk about what a big challenge it will be, they're certainly being accurate.  Add that in with the fact that the four best offenses the Colts have faced have been the four losses for Indy this year and it's safe to say that this will be a huge test for the Colts as they get ready for playoff football in a couple of weeks.