The first seven games of the 2020 season were not kind to the Dallas Cowboy and their defensive coordinator, Mike Nolan. Nolan who was hired away from the New Orleans Saints where he served as a linebacker coach had fallen under incredible scrutiny after his defense had allowed 34 or more in six straight games after allowing just 20 points to the Los Angles Rams in week one.
Well, Nolan has put off his firing for a bit after the Cowboys have played much better football over the last two weeks against the Philadelphia Eagles and the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers.
Much of the success the Cowboys have had has come after inserting Neville Gallimore into the lineup in the wake of the Dontari Poe release and getting a bit healthier at other positions. Leighton Vander Esch and Sean Lee returned. Randy Gregory also began his comeback. With the compliment of players that the defensive coaches were expecting at the beginning of the season now available, this defense is looking much better than they did in the first seven weeks of the season.
After the Cowboys allowed an average of 216 rushing yards per game weeks four through seven and 178 rushing yards per game on the season, the Cowboys have allowed just 82.5 yards per game on the ground the last two weeks. That includes holding the Steelers to just 46 rushing yards on Sunday.
Though Steelers’ Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had a pretty good game statistically, the Cowboys defense wasn’t allowing them to get anything easy. They played as well as they have all season through the first three and a half quarters of that game.
And then it took several penalties on the Steelers final couple of drives to get them in position to win the game late in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys defense played well enough to win this game.
It was an unfortunate ending to an otherwise stellar performance against one of the best teams in football. The Cowboys won’t claim any moral victories and as a team they shouldn’t, but with the youth movement taking place on the defensive line and in the secondary, it’s exciting to see the foundational pieces of a defense that is growing together.
If the Dallas Cowboys are going to win games, which continues to be their internal goal, it’s going to require the defense to continue playing as well as they did on Sunday. Even if they don’t win many more games in 2020, there’s at least encouraging signs emanating from the Cowboys defense as they venture into the second-half of the 2020 schedule.