Putting the Defense's Performance Against Arizona in Perspective

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In the days following the Dallas Cowboys’ crazy loss in the desert, the anger of the Cowboy Nation has shifted: it started with Jason Garrett, but now it seems to be directed toward the defense.  The defense certainly had a major breakdown in overtime, and they must be held accountable for that.  That being said, this angry criticism filled with invectives like “The defense sucks”, “The secondary is awful” and “The secondary is the worst in the league” just can not withstand any reasonable and objective assessment.

Let me try a baseball analogy.  If your starting pitcher only gives up two runs through 9 innings, but then walks a few batters in the 10th only to give up a grand-slam, does that terrible ending negate the rest of his day?  Does it make him an awful pitcher?  Make no mistake about it, that is what happened to the Cowboys defense on Saturday: they played an excellent game for 60 minutes, only to have it erased by a few poor plays in O.T.

Click on the link to consider an alternative perspective on the defense.

It will be a long time before we forget about this play.

I have no objections to critically evaluating any facet of this Cowboys team. However, after a loss like this, I think that most people prefer (because it is simple and avoids the need to really think about the complexities of the game) to have one scapegoat to blame.  The obvious truth – this is a team game, and no one person or one play can rationally be held responsible for the outcome of 65+ minutes of football – just doesn’t satisfy our need to blame someone.

Look at it from any angle you want, the reasonable assessment is the same: if a defense holds an opponent to 13 points in regulation, they have played well enough to win.  Put another way, if your offense can not score more than 13 points in 60 minutes, you can not blame the defense for the loss.  (Note that I am not blaming the offense either, just pointing out that it is unfair to blame the defense).

If you read my columns regularly, you know that I have a tendency to focus on the positives and minimize the negatives.  Given that many writers prefer to focus on the negative, I hope that my slightly rose-colored glasses help to achieve a balance.

As always, if I miss something, or I make a mistake, it is your job as faithful readers to enlighten me and the rest of our readers.

I will start out with some general observations, then point out some of the individual performances that are worthy of being noted, and then conclude with a statistical analysis of the secondary.

Click on the link to read my general observations.

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