Happy Victory Monday, Cowboys Nation!
Doesn't this feel amazing? A Cowboys win doesn't just effect the day it happens… it trickles over through your whole week. Ours is going to be great!
The Cowboys' 24-14 Victory over the Miami Dolphins is all that I'm going to be talking about all day, no apologies to those around me, and you obviously want to re-live it, too!
We're here to talk about defense and there's plenty to be happy about. Let's begin.
Rod Marinelli's Defense entered Sunday's slate of games as the only team in the NFL who had not produced a fourth quarter or overtime sack in 2015.
That changed as the Cowboys totaled a hat trick (that's three… I know hockey doesn't matter to most people) of quarterback takedowns on the day – with the fourth quarter sack finally dropping.
I said on last week's Cowboys Cast with Bobby Belt that this unit was more built to play with a lead, and that definitely seems to be the case. The Cowboys did not trail at all during this game and that gave this unit the ability to go hunting the quarterback. Greg Hardy (.5), David Irving (.5), DeMarcus Lawrence (1), and Jack Crawford (1) were the Cowboys Rushmen that lassoed in Ryan Tannehill.
Lamar Miller squeaked past the defensive line a few times, but he's one of the better backs in the NFL so that's not a cause for total panic. Overall these guys delivered, especially in the final moments of the game, and were critical in earning the victory.
Overall Grade: B
Welcome back, Sean Lee!
The General didn't have the most amazing game in the stat sheets, but his presence alone changes the mentality of the defense. You can tell that everyone plays harder and with more authority when #50 is in the huddle.
Like Rolando McClain.
Cowboys fans not only saw the closest thing to the 2014 offense against the Dolphins, but we saw the closest form of Rolando McClain since a season ago! McClain balled out on Sunday and was a nightmare for the Dolphins offense. He earned the continuous praise of John Lynch… which is a big deal.
Rolando made the biggest defensive play of the day when he returned an interception for a touchdown to give the Cowboys their first points of the day. It was the first such play in his career!
We have yet to see Sean Lee AND Rolando McClain have a gangbuster-type game. 2015 has been one or the other through ten games, but with a date against the undefeated Panthers perhaps this pair will both play out of their minds at the same time.
Overall Grade: A-
It turns out that Byron Jones is human after all.
The first round draft pick of the Cowboys has been playing lights out this season, and he's been the most stable piece of our secondary up to this point in the season. With the injury to Morris Claiborne, Byron was forced to play the corner position for the majority of the game for the first time in his young NFL career. It did not go so well.
Byron got burnt on a deep touchdown to Kenny Stills, but he struggled all day. He actually appeared to be injured near the end of the game, but he tweeted afterwards that he's ok so we're all good in terms of our panic level!
Ryan Tannehill only threw for 188 yards, but he did throw two touchdowns. The lone interception that the defense made happen was a result of Rolando McClain, not the secondary, so it's hard to give them credit for much in this game.
The secondary was clearly the weakest leg of the defensive tripod throughout the day, and they shockingly missed Morris Claiborne a lot. Mo may not be Richard Sherman, but him playing corner allows Byron to play safety which is clearly the best recipe for success for the defense as a whole.
The secondary is going to need to massively step up as they're not going to face sub-par quarterback performance like Ryan Tannehill every week. Next on the docket is Cam Newton who threw for five touchdowns on Sunday. Get ready.
Overall Grade: C