Nov 3, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) runs with ball for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against Dallas Cowboys safety Jeff Heath (38) and linebacker Justin Durant (52) at AT

Should the Dallas Cowboys Strip the Ball or Just Tackle?


Nov 24, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Dallas Cowboys strong safety Jeff Heath (38) picks up a fumble by New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz (80) and returns it for a touchdown in the first half during the game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Mills/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys Mailbag:

I see the Cowboys trying to strip the ball instead of trying to just tackle. It worked today but doesn’t work all the time and usually hurts us. When will the Cowboys just start playing solid defense? -Eric

The Cowboys currently rank near the top of the league in defensive turnovers. Current ESPN rankings have them tied for 2nd in the NFL ranking behind Kansas City (+15) and tied with the mighty Seattle Seahawks (+11). The success they are having is largely due to the situation you are describing in your question/comment.

Monte Kiffin entered Valley Ranch with turnovers on his mind. Like past defensive coaches he spoke of it incessantly. But unlike those past coaches, he has found success because he puts his money where his mouth is. It’s clearly a willful effort to allow ball carriers extra yardage while the defense holds them up and attacks the ball. The Cowboys have apparently made peace with the extra yardage in exchange for a couple forced turnovers from time to time.

I admit, it is extremely frustrating to see the Dallas defenders futilely try to strip the ball play after play – each time granting extra yardage to the opposing ball carrier. But on those occasions in which it works…

Monte Kiffin was planning to intercept a lot of passes this season. Unfortunately the pass coverage has been a massive disappointment. In Kiffin’s typical system the slot CB (Orlando Scandrick) and the WILL LB (Bruce Carter) are best positioned to make those interceptions. Scandrick has been great in coverage this season but he’s never been a turnover machine. Carter has struggled to recognize his coverage assignments and much like the safety play and the cornerback play, has also been disappointing.

The pass rush has similarly been poor. With injuries across the line the Cowboys have failed to get a consistent pass rush from anyone other than DT Jason Hatcher. Without forcing turnovers the traditional way (pass-rush/tight coverage) the Cowboys successfully adapted. This team seems to have accepted certain defensive deficiencies and are set on forcing turnovers anyway. That means taking the good with the bad.

For every Adrian Peterson TD run they allow, they have a strip return for a TD like you saw on Sunday.

Note: For added redemption value Jeff Heath was involved in both plays.

Don’t look for this to change this season. This is the defenses identity now and it’s going to make or break this team.

Do you have questions or comments regarding Dallas area sports? Email Reid at [email protected]. You may be included in the next weekly mailbag. Follow Reid on twitter @ReidDHanson

Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":

Tags: Dallas Cowboys Jeff Heath Monte Kiffin

  • californy

    I believe in sound football fundamental. I would take the good tackle over the arm tackles any day. You will be further ahead with better tackling than you would be with occasional turnover.. If you tackle well you can actually knock player out of the game. In my first season of playing ball I knock out their top player in 6 consecutive games on the first offensive play of the game. I rather have the knock out hit than the occasional turnover

    • Reid Hanson

      I agree. I’d rather have a fundamentally sound defense too but this team seems to have made their choice. It looks like they’re resigned to the fact that they aren’t very good and NEED extra turnovers to compete.

  • SmartThinking

    What’s wrong with both?

    • Reid Hanson

      Heck yeah, good teams find a way to do both at the same time. The Cowboys have had some success simultaneously executing both from time to time too. But about half of their strips have been while simply propping up players so others can do the stripping. If they stop doing that they will no longer be league leaders in turnovers but they will possibly be a better defense. It’s tough to say what translates into more wins considering the defense is terrible when executing by the book. This gimmick of theirs is brutal to watch but may actually be working.