The Dallas Cowboys managed to hang on for a 33-30 win over the Washington Redskins, but the defense decided to make it interesting down the stretch. In an earlier post today, BTB's Paul Alexander detailed the carnage that was the Cowboys defense in the second half of the game, and over the past month or so. What did the Cowboys have to say about it? We check in with a defensive edition of What They're Saying.
Let's start with one of the vocal leaders on defense, Keith Brooking.
"It was a rollercoaster ride," linebacker Keith Brooking said. "It was good to see our defense step up there at the end and get the ball back for our offense. We had some critical times in the middle of the game where they were getting some yardage and making some plays, but as opposed to last week, we got it done today."
Okay, there's no doubt we should give the defense some credit for making the big stop at the end of the game. But let's not forget, a huge Santana Moss drop helped to make that happen. Orlando Scandrick and Victor Butler sealed the deal with back-to-back sacks, but this game could have turned out very differently.
Any explanation, Bradie James, for the Cowboys porous defense?
"It's just little things are happening that instead of keeping them to just field goals, teams are scoring seven points on us," James said. "Those are things every week we've got to work on. We just wish we could have a whole training camp with a defensive scheme."
I like Bradie, but really, giving up a touchdown instead of a field goal is a little thing? Nope, that's pretty major. Some of the players, including James, have mentioned (like above) that the defense is still getting adjusted to what Paul Pasqualoni and Jason Garrett want. That might fly normally, but this defense has been poor all year long. There will have to be some real soul-searching about some players over the offeseaon.
Jason Garrett probably is already thinking about this, but like a good coach coaching a struggling and fragile team, he's going to stick with the positive spin - at least to the press.
"They (Cowboys defense) did a nice job of making some critical stops in the ball game," interim coach Jason Garrett said. "Washington got it going a little bit, then when it came to crunch time they made some big stops, got some pressure on the quarterback and gave us a chance to win the game."
"Ultimately we did close them out," Garrett said. "The nature of the NFL is that you have to keep playing. You're going to be challenged and you have to do things well throughout the ball game. You have to play with the right passion, emotion, enthusiasm and you also have to execute. ... I think our guys have shown that."
Okay, we got the win, and the defense made a big stop, and then intercepted the ball on Washington's last-gasp effort. Terence Newman got burned on a play earlier in the game when he thought he recognized what the Redskins were running, only to be fooled. But, at the end of the game, he read it correctly.
"They ran the exact same play again," Newman said. "I was like, ‘Oh, I’m going to get this one.’"
The Cowboys were definitely getting beat at the safety spot. Santana Moss abused Alan Ball, and the Cowboys spent part of the game without Gerald Sensabaugh. He was replaced by Barry Church who got a rude-awakening to the real NFL.
"I felt like I've played better games," Church said. "I got kind of thrown in the fire, but I expect more from myself and I think I missed too many tackles."
On one play, he tried for a kill-shot on Chris Cooley, then found out he wasn't in college anymore.
"I was thinking, go for the shot," said Church, who pinballed off Cooley after trying to deliver a blow on the play. "In college, tight ends are a lot different. You can de-cleat them. Here it was just you hit him and you feel like there's a wall. I think I'll learn with experience about leverage and when to go high and when to go low."
"It was a lot different than when I got in in the preseason," he said. "It was a lot faster. But I'm just going to have to control myself and not let the excitement get to me."
Sensabaugh thinks he'll be back next week.
"I should be okay, but we'll see," he said. "I'll go through all the tests. I haven't had a concussion in a long time. I really don't know when it happened."
There was some good news on defense, DeMarcus Ware had a pretty good game, adding to what is already a stellar career. He got a couple of sacks and forced a big fumble. He crossed the 10-sack barrier again this year, becoming the first guy to do it five years in a row since Simeon Rice.
"I think the main thing is being consistent," said Ware, who had been tied with George Andrie and Jethro Pugh with four 10-sack seasons. "I harp on that and if I can do that every year, that’s a big accomplishment. But I’m looking forward to next week and Arizona and trying to get more. I always try to get pressure."
So the defense is still struggling, but the Cowboys won. We'll give DeMarcus the last word.
"There's no need to apologize for any wins this season," DeMarcus Ware said.