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Position battleground (defense): Cowboys vs. Bears head-to-head breakdown for defensive positions

A positional head-to-head breakdown on the Week 8 matchup between the Cowboys and Bears to find the strengths and weaknesses of each defensive position.

Dallas Cowboys v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Previously we broke down the offense for this week’s upcoming game for the Dallas Cowboys, now we dive back into the position battleground, this time looking at how the defensive positions and special teams stack up against each other.


What’s great about the Cowboys defensive line is there seems to be a new guy every week that’s taking the next leap or having a breakout game. Last week defensive end Sam Williams had himself the game of his career so far, showing off his raw strength. Off 14 defensive snaps, Williams recorded three tackles, two sacks, one tackle for loss, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. And let’s not forget the tackle he made on the runner by picking him up, and throwing him like an empty suitcase. What makes Williams so impressive though, is how he’s being utilized up and down the line, whether he’s playing as a traditional end, as a 3-tech, or in the two-point stance more like an outside linebacker. It does not matter to Williams, he just makes plays.

On the other side, DeMarcus Lawrence had an amazing game as well. The goal line stop that turned into a fumble, was literally pure strength and determination by Lawrence. He showed it all on one play. He broke past the double-team block, ran through the tight end, got to the ball carrier and then dislodged the ball. The play itself was impressive, but what’s more is it changed the momentum of the game. From there, the Cowboys imposed their will on the Lions in all areas of the game, and the final outcome was a bruising win. With the addition of Johnathan Hankins in a trade with Las Vegas, the Cowboys line has only strengthened itself against the run.

The Bears defensive line is allowing 150 rush yards per game, and are also allowing the third-worst conversion rate to opponents on third down. What’s just as bad is their pass rush, which is close to non-existent. So far the Bears have managed twelve sacks, which is forth-worst in the league. Leading the team in pressures is their defensive end, Trevis Gipson. Familiar name Robert Quinn has recently been shipped to the Philadelphia Eagles, leaving an even bigger hole for them to fill. But their best pass rusher in terms of sack numbers is Dominique Robinson, with three sacks, which is the same number as Dante Fowler, which for Dallas ranks fourth most in sacks.

Win: Cowboys

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports


Leighton Vander Esch is lacking acceleration, he gets targeted a lot that much can be obvious, but he’s managing to keep it together. LVE led the team in tackles again, had some big stops on third down, but most importantly is he’s staying healthy. Micah Parsons was instrumental again this week, and his speed was really on show during his pure hustle plays to get to the ball carrier. The play where he stopped the receiver at the one-yard line shows everyone his determination on every play. This man has closing speed only seen in superhero films. As for Anthony Barr, he’s been a roundabout of emotion. One play we see that great play recognition, wrapping the ball carrier up, showing good agility. The next play he disappears. At a time when he’s needed the most, having a 50% chance of the making play is unnerving. But the good news is Damone Clark is on the way, officially now on the active 53.

The Bears have a great linebacker in Roquan Smith, and he makes every tackle that comes his way. Smith has managed to get to the quarterback three times this year, but beyond his efforts, no other linebacker has got any real pressure. The only other linebacker for the Bears putting in any real defensive production is Nicholas Morrow, but the Cowboys linebacker corps is far superior here.

Win: Cowboys

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports


How can you not be in love with this defensive back group at Dallas? The Trevon Diggs interception, wow! The way he located and adjusted to the ball, almost looked as though he was the one playing wide receiver. Donovan Wilson is continuing his trend of being a dominant safety, but some concern is creeping in, let’s just hope that’s a blip in his play for now. Malik Hooker is still doing his part in centerfield, and both safeties are a huge highlight to the defensive back team. The way Jayron Kearse is playing has some questions whether he’s fully healthy. Whether he’s dealing with something else, or just not completely out the woods, it’s hard to tell. But Kearse doesn’t look like 2021 Kearse right now. Anthony Brown has some fans annoyed, and it’s true he’s getting beat more frequently in recent games. But for Brown, it’s more that he needs some speed from the linebackers to help when playing Cover 3, and by getting that help, he can get deep enough to make the play on the ball. Jourdan Lewis got a great interception, but we find out he’s now lost for the year with a Lisfranc injury, and you have to wonder if this is the last we have seen of Lewis. But that means here comes DaRon Bland, a fan favorite, and proof of the depth at defensive back.

The Bears have Eddie Jackson, a safety from Alabama, and he’s doing a good job at free safety. He’s piled on the tackles this year. He has the most tackles from their defensive back players, but also the most missed tackles. Rookie safety Jaquan Brisker is having a good first year and the Bears use him in a range of positions. An interesting battle to watch will be Jaylon Johnson shadowing CeeDee Lamb. Johnson missed a handful of games this year due to injury, he’s slowly working back to full health, and the Patriots game saw him travelling in coverage. But his ability to play from the slot is not desirable, and Lamb from the slot could be a way to mitigate Johnson’s skills. Rookie cornerback Kyler Gordon is making the most of his first year, and has allowed only one touchdown on the season, but he will look to face off against the talented Michael Gallup, who is hungry for catches after only being targeted twice against the Lions. For the Bears though, a lot of what they do well in defending against the pass is mitigated by poor run defense. So teams have a tendency to choose an obvious game plan, and also muddies just how good this defensive back corps truly is.

Win: Cowboys


Brett Maher has become the new “Mr Automatic.” Those fans that used to regularly pace when they saw Maher take to the field have all calmed their nerves. They joyfully sit waiting for the officials to raise their arms in confirmation of yet another Maher success. “Money” Maher made his only field goal attempt last week, and hit all three extra points. Cairo Santos has yet to miss a field goal on his eleven attempts. But he has two misses in the extra point column.

On punt returns, it’s only inches now until KaVontae Turpin takes one to the house, and his 52-yard return last week was pure gold. A half step more one way would of seen him go all the way. Turpin now ranks second in return yards, third in yards per return average, and second in longest return. As for the Bears specialist, Dante Pettis, he ranks all the way down at 30th in return yards.

Win: Cowboys


Which team has the better defense?

This poll is closed

  • 98%
    Dallas Cowboys
    (453 votes)
  • 1%
    Chicago Bears
    (8 votes)
461 votes total Vote Now

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