The Defense Finally Holds Late - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
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The Defense Finally Holds Late



    It was really hard to look at the Cowboys following Sunday's victory and find any heroes who weren't named Miles Austin. Other players made some big plays, to be sure, but the overall team effort still led to a victory that won't inspire many epic poems down the road. Linebacker Bradie James wasn't letting that stop him from doing a little chest-beating in the locker room, however.

    "We knew we had to withstand and make plays. We never gave up defensively. If the sky would have been falling, it would have fallen right here if we hadn’t won. You just need to win these games. Losing wasn’t an option today."

    No one will ever accuse James of being a glass is half-empty kinda guy. The Cowboys defense committed a slew of penalties, gave up long drive after long drive to an offense that's failed to threaten any of their other opponents and got the benefit of a holding call on Chiefs tackle Wade Smith on the first drive of overtime. Yes, they finally held on the second Chiefs possession of overtime, but is that enough to say that the defense played like a team that didn't see losing as an option?

    These are always the hardest determinations to make about teams in the wake of "bad wins," which Sunday surely was for the Cowboys. Was that overtime three-and-out before Austin's winning score a case of the Cowboys defense finally steeling itself to the task at hand? Or was it a mediocre, conservative offense refusing to play aggressively despite having nothing to lose and great field position to boot? 

    Based on the way the fourth quarter unfolded, you have to feel like it's the latter. The Chiefs held the ball for 10 minutes on two drives which equaled 23 plays even though they shot themselves in the foot with four penalties, two negative yardage runs by Larry Johnson and a sack. Jay Ratliff bailed out the defense on the first drive by blocking a field goal and the Chiefs refused to try to win the game with a two-point conversion following their touchdown with 24 seconds to play, which are the only reasons why James can even say that losing wasn't an option with a straight face.

    The Cowboys defense didn't stand tough, they pulled a Homer. It happens, even to better teams than the Cowboys, but mistaking a fortunate happenstance for something you caused will only lead to worse problems because closing your eyes and hoping for the best isn't a long-term strategy that's going to work out.