LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 27: Keith Brooking #51 of the Dallas Cowboys defends against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on December 27, 2009 in Landover, Maryland. The Cowboys defeated the Redskins 17-0. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
The Philadelphia Eagles will come into Arlington next week with all the dangerous weapons that gave Dallas fans the jitters last week, when the two teams faced off for the NFC East title. DeSean Jackson. Jeremy Maclin. Brent Celek. Et cetera.
Many experts see the task in front of Dallas as a monumentally difficult one. Stopping the Eagles twice, okay. But three times--it would be unprecedented, literally. The Cowboys have never beaten a division rival three times in a season, failing twice in years previous. But if any team has a chance to pull it off, this one is a pretty good candidate.
This is because the defense is playing at a level almost unprecedented, itself. In the last three games, the unit has allowed 17 points; which is to say, New Orleans scored 17 points in their match-up in week 15. The team has posted two consecutive shutouts for the first time in franchise history.
The shutout last week of the Eagles was the first for Dallas since 1999. Suffice it to say, Wade Phillips the coordinator is doing a bang-up job. The last points given up by the defense came midway through the fourth quarter against New Orleans, when Drew Brees found Lance Moore in the end zone.
Since then, they've gotten awfully stingy.
Let's not forget that this unit endured heavy criticism early in the season for what seemed an inability to close out games. This isn't to say they didn't show flashes of dominance; but consistency was an issue. Now, it seems as though the Phillips-led Dallas defense is hitting its stride in a timely manner.
"[Coach Phillips] has been sharpening the things that we do well," said linebacker Anthony Spencer. "He really hasn't been changing or trying to mold our defense to fit the opposing offense. We just try to make them change the way they play us, and it's been working."
The true test for the unit comes now, as it's officially playoffs time in the NFL. They suppressed the Eagles attack last Sunday deftly; now all they have to do, is do it again.
"I know we're definitely going to get their best again," said linebacker Bradie James. "The challenge is to just mentally stand your ground, to stay focused."