Cowboys, Patriots have more similarities than meets the eye

The NFL's standards for success on and off the field meet Sunday at AT&T Stadium when the Dallas Cowboys take on the New England Patriots.

The Cowboys have five Super Bowl wins, though none since 1995, and are the NFL's highest-valued franchise. The Patriots have four Super Bowls, all since 2001, and are the NFL's second-highest valued franchise.

But the Cowboys have lost some on-field value with injuries to Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, most notably, while the Patriots are rolling along at 3-0 and fresh off their bye week.

NFL Nation reporters Mike Reiss and Todd Archer offer up a Double Coverage of the interconference meeting:

Todd Archer: Mike, these are the NFL's highest-profile franchises, given the Cowboys' past and the Patriots' long run of success since 2001. At the forefront are the owners, Jerry Jones and Robert Kraft. They are two of the power brokers in the league. While they run their football teams in different ways, what similarities do you see in Kraft and Jones?

Mike Reiss: Todd, the first thing that comes to mind is that Kraft has spoken about how Jones was one of the most welcoming owners to him when he purchased the Patriots in 1994. At the time, Kraft also spoke about how they were following the Cowboys' model of trying to draft, develop and then extend the contracts of up-and-coming players. So these families, extending to Jonathan Kraft and Stephen Jones, are close, and the relationship is one that has now spanned two decades. As for similarities, it starts with commitment and presence. While one might think that's a prerequisite for any ownership group, I don't think that's the case across the league.

You have covered the NFL for more than two decades. When you compare and contrast the Patriots' current run of success with the dynastic years of the Cowboys, what stands out to you most?

Archer: I wasn't here for the Triplets era, but I've been around long enough to know the background. As great as they were, I know there were players on that team who wonder what could have been if not for Jimmy Johnson's departure. Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith are Hall of Famers. Charles Haley was added this year. Hopefully, Darren Woodson gets in one day, too. But ego got in the way of the Cowboys' dynasty in the Jerry-Jimmy debate. The Patriots' run of success has been about Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. When you think how the NFL is built these days compared to the start of the Cowboys' run in the 1990s, it's amazing what the Patriots have done. It might be the most impressive run in league history because of the salary cap and how parity rules.

The Cowboys are trying a running back by committee with not as much success as they had hoped. The Patriots seem to be able to operate better in that world. Why?

Reiss: The Patriots essentially split their running backs into two categories -- power and "passing" backs -- and they'll often have extreme swings of who is featured on a week-to-week basis. This year, it's LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden as power options, and Dion Lewis and James White as the "passing backs." Overall, because the Patriots throw the ball as often as they do, the "passing back" can sometimes lead the team in snaps played, as was the case last year with Shane Vereen (52.9 percent). So it's a game-plan-specific offense that changes its approach weekly. To have that work, players have to buy in and submerge their egos, so that's a good place to start when considering who deserves credit for the success.

Belichick referred to the Cowboys offensive line as the best in the NFL. That also seems to be the perception league-wide, but is perception reality? If so, why?

Archer: It certainly entered the season with that reputation after what it did last year with DeMarco Murray rushing for 1,845 yards. Frankly, it just hasn't played as well. But I do think people need to remember last year was a special year. Teams have done a better job scheming up the Cowboys. And without Romo, it hasn't been able to get into the right play as much to beat the looks it has shown. The talent is unquestioned with Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Travis Frederick. They just need to put together a full game.

Mike, you've covered Belichick from the start. How different is the sense people have of Belichick from afar than it is dealing with him on a daily basis?

Reiss: I don't think perception is reality with Belichick, Todd, and maybe that's even more of the case this year. Take Wednesday as an example and his playful banter about SnapFace (is it Snapchat or Facebook?) at the end of his news conference. He's not going to let his guard down too much in that setting, and there are times it's clear he doesn't want to be there (the owners meeting breakfast comes to mind), but the perception of him as an every-day curmudgeon is overstated. He will engage with reporters after news conferences at times, as he did with me Wednesday after the SnapFace reference. It's probably best explained the same way we might do it to our own kids: Don't judge a book by its cover; take the time to read it first.

No Romo, no Bryant, so does that mean no chance for the Cowboys? What do they have to do to pull the upset?

Archer: Pray? Honestly, I think they need to play as close to perfectly as possible. They can't turn the ball over and give Brady too many chances. They have to come up with third-down stops. They won't be able to win a shootout. They're just not built that way right now with the injuries, and I don't know they are a defense that can be a lockdown unit even with the return of Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain.