They say defense wins championships in the game of football. If that’s true, the Dallas Cowboys are putting themselves firmly in position to go after one in 2019.
On a team loaded with offensive stars like Dak Prescott, All-Pro Ezekiel Elliott, and Amari Cooper it can be hard to get recognized on the other side of the ball. However, the Cowboys defense is starting to play at a level that’s reminiscent of the unit from 2018 that finished seventh in total defense. With four more challenging games ahead in the month of November, the Cowboys defense will be needed more than ever.
This current stretch of elite defensive play goes back to the second half vs the New York Jets in Week 6. The Cowboys found themselves in a 21-6 hole at halftime. Offensively, the Cowboys started to find their rhythm and staged a furious comeback but that wouldn’t have been possible without the defense shutting down Sam Darnold and the Jets offense.
In the second half, the Cowboys defense held the Jets to three points, got an interception inside the red zone, and only allowed 130 yards. Even though the Cowboys ultimately fell short 24-22 the performance of the defense in the second half was encouraging heading into the next week.
The Cowboys were spiraling downward and in the midst of a three-game losing streak when the Philadelphia Eagles came to town in Week 7 with first place in the NFC East on the line. With a talented quarterback like Carson Wentz, the last thing you want to do is give him any momentum in your building. The Cowboys defense wouldn’t waste any time putting their fingerprint on this game.
On the Eagles first possession of the game, Linebacker Jaylon Smith forced a fumble by Tight End Dallas Goedert that was recovered my Maliek Collins, which lead to a Tavon Austin touchdown and an early 7-0 lead. The Eagle’s second possession didn’t go any better as All-Pro DeMarcus Lawrence strip-sacked Wentz at the nine-yard line and Antwaun Woods pounced on it, setting up the Cowboys in the red zone. Two plays later Elliott scored to put the Cowboys up 14-0.
By the fourth quarter, the Cowboys were up comfortably 30-10 but they weren’t done creating turnovers. Xavier Woods intercepted Wentz returning it the Philadelphia 39. After Prescott threw an interception of his own, the Eagles took over but they wouldn’t have the ball very long. Two plays later, Wentz fumbled for the second time and Kerry Hyder would recover it at the 16 yard line. Prescott would use his legs to score three plays later, and the Cowboys won easily 37-10.
The Cowboys defense arguably had it’s the best performance of the season in this game. They sacked Wentz three times, held the Eagles to under 300 yards of offense and forced four turnovers. Also, the Eagles only converted three out of nine on third down and went scoreless on two red-zone trips. Now that’s what you would call championship-level defense wouldn’t you say?
This past Monday night the Cowboys went back to Metlife Stadium, this time to take on the New York Giants. It took a little longer to get the turnover party started in this game, though, but that all changed right before halftime.
Xavier Woods intercepted Daniel Jones and returned it to the 39-yard line to set up a Brett Maher field goal giving the Cowboys a 13-12 lead at halftime, totally changing the momentum of the ball game.
About halfway through the third quarter, Woods created his second turnover of the game when he forced a fumble by Jones that set up another Maher field goal giving the Cowboys a 16-12 lead.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys were up comfortably 30-18. However, they had one last huge defensive play to make. After a long 15 play drive that went inside the Cowboys 25, Jourdan Lewis put the final nail in the Giants coffin returning a fumble 63 yards for a touchdown.
The Giants were only five of 16 on third down, only managed 271 yards of offense, were one for five in the red zone, and gave up five sacks. Needless to say, the Cowboys defense put together it’s second consecutive dominant performance.
In their last 10 quarters of play, the Cowboys defense has been elite. They have only allowed 31 points ( two touchdowns, six field goals), forced eight turnovers, and recorded nine sacks. Currently, they rank 11th vs the run, seventh vs the pass, and sixth overall in total defense. If the Cowboys want any chance of capturing the franchise’s first Super Bowl title in 24 tears this level of defense will have to continue.