Don't Hit The Panic Button On Run Defense...Yet - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
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Don't Hit The Panic Button On Run Defense...Yet



    Don't go losing hair and/or sleep over the Dallas Cowboys run defense. This might be hard to do considering that the Wade-run, Wade-installed 3-4 allowed 147 rushing yards to the Bucs. That sounds (really) bad, and on paper, to be sure, it is; but Dallas did make key adjustments and what I'm about to write will bring upheaval and cries of homerism. But:

    Dallas' defense wasn't as bad as it seems.

    Besides the aforementioned (and quite gawdy) number above, the unit failed to shut down the run, get a turnover or a sack, the main stated goals of the defense going into Tampa Bay. That, too, seems ugly, and ominous, as Dallas prepares for the run-happy New York Giants. (You'd be run-happy too if Eli Manning was your quarterback.)

    But these numbers are skewed. For one, as Marcus Spears pointed out, Dallas' defenders killed Byron Leftwich, though you could never get as much from reading the box score.

    "I think that guy (Leftwich) hit the ground eleven times today," Spears said after Sunday's 34-21 win. "I mean, sacks are a great stat, don't get me wrong. But I'm not the guy who's going to fill up the stat sheet with sacks. Not me. But the guys that are known for getting sacks, they'll start coming in bunches. It's not a big deal, as long as we can have pressure in his face, and do things like that. If anybody thinks that those hits didn't affect him throughout the game, [they're] sadly mistaken. "

    Spears has a point, here, and yes, sacks are something that should come in droves for the Dallas defense, which is designed as a pass rush machine. What's more, the yardage lost on sacks is a bonus. But pressure--even without the sacks to prove it--is a must in an effective defense. And the sacks will come--they will. It's a fact. Bradie James said as much in his postgame comments on Sunday.

    "Sometimes with being aggressive, you can be subjected to [them] making the big play," James said. "What you got to do is regroup, and guys just got to make plays. One thing we didn't do, we didn't get to the quarterback. We got to the him, but we didn't sack him. One thing we got to do next week, we got to get to the quarterback. Everybody knows that."

    But James contends that the team made the necessary adjustments to get the offense on the field and seal a win, a claim corroborrated by the fact that Cadillac Williams didn't have a run longer than six yards in the second half.

    "We got to go back to the drawing board and regroup," James continued. "But we made the adjustments when we needed to. Teams know we're coming after them, and that's why they were able to gash us."
    With respect to the turnovers, Mike Jenkins grabbed an interception that was ultimately called back on an illegal contact by Gerald Sensabaugh that was, at best, ticky tack; and at worst roughly equatable to steaming horse feces. Tampa got the ball, scored, and the box score was rendered utterly interception-less.
    The argument could also be made that Tampa Bay's runners really are that good. And maybe they are. But so are New York's.
    Dallas fancies itself a top tier defense, and--as much as the stats may be skewed or insufficient in telling the whole story--the cold fact is, top tier defenses don't give up 450 yards to Tampa Bay. They very simply must improve.

    The good news? It's football season, and in six days, the defense will get a shot at redemption in their fancy new digs against a hated rival.