It was the defensive performance the Cowboys had been hoping to see all season long -- at least when it came to takeaways.
“Winning the turnover battle was clearly a big part of our victory today,” Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said. “On a number of fronts, it was a very gratifying victory because of a number of things that went on during the game, particularly on defense.”
What went on was the Cowboys were the beneficiary of three Cincinnati fumbles in the first half alone in their 30-7 win. Those turnovers included Bengals running back Trayveon Williams losing the ball after he ran into his own offensive lineman, after which Cowboys defensive lineman Aldon Smith returned the fumble 78 yards for the game’s first touchdown. It was Smith's first touchdown since he played in college.
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“The guys were giving me a lot of stuff,” Smith said. “They said I looked like I was slow, but I thought I was pretty fast. But it’s a good feeling.”
“He’s an athletic guy and it’s hard to get him down, especially with that kind of lead and no real pursuit,” Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith said. “We knew he was going to get in.”
The Cowboys defense, while far from perfect, did befuddle the Bengals just enough, giving the Dallas locker room hope there is still time to show the defensive group has a chance to turn things around and change the perception in the final month of the season.
“It’s important we finish the season strong and guys play well,” Smith said. “That’s just something we can build off of and keep continuing it every week.”
“We need to build off the way we played, with the energy that we played today, especially in the finish,” McCarthy said.
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