Cowboys defense is ready for the playoffs

Dec 11, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) fumbles as he is hit by Dallas Cowboys defensive end Benson Mayowa (93) during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 11, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) fumbles as he is hit by Dallas Cowboys defensive end Benson Mayowa (93) during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

The Dallas Cowboys defense played its best game Sunday night against the New York Giants. The Cowboys defense held the Giants high powered offense to 10 points, proving it’s ready for the playoffs.

Perceived to be the weakest link on the team, the Dallas Cowboys defense has stepped up when it mattered the most. It has allowed quarterbacks like Ben Roethlisberger and Kirk Cousins to pass for over 400 yards, but it still found a way to make key stops and win the game.

Although the Cowboys lost a tough game against their divisional rival, the New York Giants, the defense played outstanding. It played so good that Dallas should’ve won the game.

The Cowboys defense played beyond well, and then some.

Yes, it missed on some prime opportunities to tilt the game in their favor. But this defense played with high energy, motivation, determination, and a sense of purpose. They forced three turnovers, recorded three sacks, and held the Giants offense to 260 total yards.

Further, the defense held the Giants to 12 first down and the Giants only converted two third downs. If someone told me the Giants would convert only two third downs, I’d assume they lacked football knowledge.

And if not for Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr’s, 61-yard touchdown reception, Dallas would have been in position to win this game. OBJ is one of the most talented and dynamic receivers in the league, constantly scoring touchdowns.

The front seven

Therefore, this defense has nothing to be ashamed of.

However, for the second consecutive game, the Cowboys defense has registered three sacks. That’s a total of six sacks in two games: very impressive, considering the pass rush has been viewed as a liability. Plus, the this defense has four turnovers in the last two games.

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To some teams, this is nothing to brag about. But for this particular defense, it means a lot. It’s relevant because the Dallas defense was coming up short in creating sacks and turnovers.

It’s important because the offense needs all the help it can get with the playoffs looming. It could also mean the defense is finally jelling by forcing turnovers and pressuring the quarterback.

All season long, the critics have complained about the defense being the Cowboys’ achilles heel: a combination of a lackluster pass rush and turnovers. The pundits have predicted the defense will be Dallas’s downfall at some point.

After witnessing the Cowboys defense against the Giants and Minnesota Vikings, I have to disagree. I saw a different defense perform at a spectacular level. For instance, linebacker Sean Lee recorded 18 tackles and resembled a young Dick Butkus against the Giants.

The secondary

The Cowboys secondary deserves some praise, too. Rookie cornerback Anthony Brown recorded his first career interception, is getting better each week and learning from his mistakes. Brown didn’t get caught looking in the backfield like he did against the Vikings.

Brown is a rookie with so much potential, and getting his first interception is a confidence booster, to say the least. Combine Brown’s confidence with the return of cornerback Morris Claiborne, and Dallas’ secondary will be legit.

Even corner Brandon Carr is playing better, who is known for getting burned repeatedly. To Carr’s credit, he did a solid job against OBJ.

Safeties Byron Jones and Barry Church are playing well, while anchoring the back end of the secondary. Jones has made key plays all year long, and is proving he can lock down a team’s best tight end.

The defensive line

Defensive linemen Tyrone Crawford, Maliek Collins, Demarcus Lawrence, Benson Mayowa, David Irving, and Cedric Thornton are gaining momentum in the trenches. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is doing a fantastic job of twisting and stunting to get sacks on the quarterback.

In the last two games, these ferocious linemen have feasted on opposing quarterbacks.

Marinelli’s creative schemes are the reason the defense has allowed only 25 points in the last two games. This defensive unit stopped the Giants running game, allowing a paltry 2.8 yards per carry.

This defense will only get better as it take advantages of missed opportunities, like three dropped interceptions against the Giants.

Next: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants: Standouts, Notes, and Observations

As a whole, this defensive unit is better than advertised: especially in the last two games. It’s a sign of good things to come, because this defense is ready.