The Dallas Cowboys have built a reputation under defensive coordinator Dan Quinn for being one of the best units of its kind in the NFL. Well, they got punched in the mouth by the Arizona Cardinals who racked up 222 rushing yards in Week 3 and were completely embarrassed by the San Francisco 49ers 42-10 two weeks later.
This past Monday, the Cowboys defense had to deal with a familiar face, former offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. The Los Angeles Chargers offense came into last week as a top-five unit, and Moore was looking to light up the scoreboard against Quinn if the opportunity presented itself. With his unit's integrity on the line, Quinn answered the bell.
After a shaky opening drive that saw the Chargers march down the field with ease and take a 7-0 lead, the Cowboys' defense was stout the rest of the game. They only allowed 53 rushing yards, and despite only getting one sack, they kept pressure in Justin Herbert's face all game thanks to Quinn mixing up his looks which led to the Chargers only converting five of their 14 attempts on third down.
On back-to-back possessions to start the second half, the argument can be made that Quinn's defense won the game for the Cowboys. Up 10-7 to start the third quarter, Dallas let the Chargers go on a 13-play drive that took up over seven minutes off the clock. However, cornerback DaRon Bland deflected Herbert’s pass on a 4th and 1 from the seven-yard line. On the next Chargers drive, the Cowboys let them get in the red zone again but only surrendered a field goal to tie the game at 10. That's 14 potential points that ended up being just three.
As good as the Cowboys' defense was all night, they need one more stand with the score 20-17 with just over two minutes to play. After All-Pro Micah Parsons sacked Herbert to force a third and long, Stephon Gilmore hauled in an interception to seal the game for Dallas on the next play and take their record to 4-2, placing them just a game behind the 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles who both lost in Week 6.
Quinn's game plan worked wonders as the Chargers' 272 yards were 116 below their season average, and the 17 points they scored were 10 off what they had been producing in their first four games. If it wasn't for the Cowboys special teams blunder that gave the Chargers a short field to even the game at 17, Quinn's defense held the Chargers to just a field goal outside of their opening drive.
Having two bad performances in three weeks raised some eyebrows about how good Quinn's unit is. They got lucky with a few misfires by Herbert to wide receiver Keenan Allen, but overall, they kept Moore's high-powered offense in check. Now, it's about keeping that consistency every week, which has been a bit of a problem lately.