KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 11: Quarterback Matt Cassel #7 of the Kansas City Chiefs and Keith Brooking #51 of the Dallas Cowboys compete for a loose ball during the game on October 11, 2009 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
There are myriad theories concerning Dallas' late-game struggles on defense of late. These range from poor coaching to insufficient preparation to, as Bradie James said yesterday, over-aggressiveness.
"I don't know if it's guys being overly aggressive, but you got to pick the right time to gamble," said James yesterday. "The night before the game, all players dream of making the game winning play...When you get in that situation, you kind of want to be that guy, but you've got to make plays within the scheme."
Keith Brooking would probably agree, though not in so many words; the remedy, Brooking has said countless times, is not complicated, but hinges simply on preparation and attention to detail. This is a predictable sentiment, considering Brooking's workman-like approach to the game.
"We've got to play smarter," Brooking said on Tuesday. "You can't shoot yourself in the foot in this league, very good football teams will slap you upside the face and take the win from you. We have to think about that, we have to be conscious about that. If we do that, the guys in this locker room, the faith I have in them, all the things I've talked about, about 'show me how important football is to you,' we all have that, and we're going to be right where we want to be."
Brooking, who has emerged as an emotional leader both on the field and in the locker room, believes the talent is there; the trouble, as it always seems to, lies in overlooked details.
"Don't leave a stone unturned, I always say 'sweep the corners,' don't leave anything behind, get the corners, sweep it out real good, do the small things," Brooking continued. "If we do that, we prepare, we're going to be right where we want to be. This is a very talented football team, as long as we prepare the way we're supposed to prepare, the way championship teams prepare, the way winning teams prepare, it's going to show up on Sunday. "