Early this season, the defense played like the little boy who walks around the house in daddy's shoes. The unit looked tough, but many of its players were inexperienced, so it tripped when it tried to run. It surrendered long passes by the handful, giving up seven TD passes in the first three games. It let floundering ground attacks in San Francisco and Oakland run free. It dropped late leads and put cardiologists in the Metroplex on double duty each Sunday night.
It's not quite man-size, but Little Doomsday is growing up fast. LaRoi Glover, Greg Ellis and their gang of juveniles stepped up big in their second consecutive divisional win. This week, they held the league's top scoring offense to 13 points and were 19 seconds away from pushing their quarters-without-allowing-a-TD streak to eleven. They were the difference in an often frustrating 16-13 overtime win over the Giants.
Sure, the defense gave up 150 of New York's 270 yards in the game's final 12 minutes, when a 100 degree day wilted its pass rush. And yes, its last minute play brought back painful memories of the Washington loss in week two. But let's look at the positive side of the equation. 90 seconds into the second half, the Giants had a 4-0 edge in turnovers. The Giants had just recovered their second Drew Bledsoe fumble and were 31 yards from regaining the lead. Dallas had a 7-6 lead then, but Tom Coughlin's men were again working the script that had led them to a 3-1 record and first place -- win the turnover battle and convert your opponents miscues into points.
But the Dallas defense would even the turnover ledger before the Giants put their next points on the scoreboard. Over the remainder of the half, the defense:
The defense got erratic help from the offense, who failed this time to move the ball even one yard. New York forced a short punt and when Williams played zone while the rest of his teammates were in a blitz, Jeremy Shockey broke free from him to score from 24 yards out, deferring the Cowboys' celebration.
That spotty offense came to life in the overtime, taking the kickoff and moving 51 yards in eight plays, setting up a 45 Jose Cortez field goal for the win. The drive would prove costly, as Patrick Crayton was helped from the field after catching a ten yard pass on the drive's opening play. An MRI is scheduled for tomorrow, but Parcells hinted that Crayton broke his ankle.