This Cowboys Defense Came Up Huge In Detroit, And Will Do So Again

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Crippled by injuries and fraught with new faces, somehow, someway, this defense has managed to field a competitive unit that, even after giving up 51 points to the Broncos, is still ranked 17th in the league in average points per game.

Growing pains were to be expected for a unit changing schemes this season, moving from a 3-4 base to Monte Kiffin’s 4-3. They weren’t supposed to shut down opposing offenses in the first half – they were supposed to get torched at times, and develop into a big-play defense as the season progresses.

Oct 27, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) slides near the goal line during 2nd half of a game at Ford Field. Lions won 31-30. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

But there have been flashes of real promise through the first eight games. Yes, the Cowboys were gashed by elite passers such as Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Matthew Stafford, but they dominated lesser quarterbacks like Alex Smith, Sam Bradford and Nick Foles. Experience suggests that will continue this week against Christian Ponder or Josh Freeman.

The Cowboys are 4-4 at the season’s midway point, but they’ve lost three of those games by a combined five points. This .500 team, implementing scheme changes on both sides of the ball and devastated by the injury bug on defense, is literally just three plays away from being 7-1.

If those plays go the other way in the second half, there’s no reason to think the Cowboys can’t go 6-2 down the stretch. They’ve shown through their first eight games that they’re good enough to compete with any team in the league. The reason the margins have been so tight in their losses, is the Cowboys are as good as any team they’ve played.

Some weeks they may need to lean on the offense more than others, but the defensive unit should continue to improve despite the injuries, as the players and the new system are tweaked to fit each other.

So enough with Chicken Little routine. The sky isn’t falling on the Cowboys 2013 season because of a defense that “can’t stop anyone.” In truth, the Cowboys defense is about where we expected it would be at midseason – near the middle of the NFL in points allowed, making game-changing plays at times and getting burned at others.

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  • BajaJohn1

    But they gave up 618 yards to the Lions…

  • ed

    Brilliant observations. “Sufficient for today is the evil thereof”. Let us enjoy what we have to enjoy now and those who abide will see if the future holds good fortune of bad.

  • realistfan

    Well, let’s back up a second. To be fair this defense that “came up huge” last week came up so huge they allowed 24 of 31 points in the fourth quarter, after the offense came form behind, got and sustained a lead the entire game.
    Same defense that allowed 51 points after the Offense got a 14 point lead on the Broncos, and kept getting the lead back throughout the game.
    Yeah, that defense – worst in the NFL in yardage, middle of the pack in scoring allowed, and near the top in turnovers.

    Better in scoring and turnovers than last year, worse in yardage, and still CAN’T STOP THE GOOD TEAMS WHEN THEY HAVE TO.

    Fix that, and you have a playoff contender (although a couple more decent linemen and a running attack would help too).

    Bottom line point was on target though – should we have expected some growing pains and middle of the pack performance from the Cowboys, especially with the injuries and losses in the defense (and losing Brian Waters)? Yes.

    And 4-4 is about right – a few plays away from being 6-2 or 7-1. Can they work some magic against tougher competition the last half? We’ll see.

    Rooting for you ‘Boys!! — but not expecting much.

    • John

      How can you say the Cowboys can’t stop the good teams when they have to? They stopped a good Detroit team with less than 2 minutes to play protecting a 3-point lead. How can you say the Cowboys can’t do something that you LITERALLY JUST WATCHED THEM DO.
      The Cowboys CAN stop teams when they have to. We know they can because we’ve observed them doing it.

      • realistfan

        John, while they had one defensive stop in the quarter, they gave up 24 points in the quarter to lose the game. You can’t pick out one defensive series as an example of what they can do. They needed to lock down Detroit that quarter and failed, especially in the last drive when Detroit scored the game winner. My point remains.
        This last week against Vikings another example – made Ponder look like a pro quarterback, and Peterson had his usual 100+ yards. Offense had to win on the last drive. Thank God for Romo!