Dallas Cowboys: Defensive turnovers are the keys to sustained success

Dallas Cowboys Defense Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Dallas Cowboys Defense Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

The Dallas Cowboys defense was so bad last season that many critics expected their struggles to carry over into this year, causing them to finish with a losing record and miss the playoffs for third consecutive season.

According to the critics, not even the Cowboys high octane offense with Dak Prescott under center could save them from another disappointing season from its defense. I mean that’s how woeful the Cowboys defense played last season-last in almost every defensive category.

The only bright spot for the Cowboys defense was that the Cowboys led the league in turnovers during the final stretch of 2020 season. Now we see the Cowboys have continued that trend and we see that turnovers are the keys to having a successful season.

Despite missing several defensive players, the Dallas Cowboys newfound success is by forcing turnovers.

The prelude to the Dallas Cowboys’ defense forcing turnovers started in the latter part of the 2020 season when the defense miraculously led the league with 12 takeaways-including the secondary intercepting five passes.

Over time, forcing turnovers becomes expectant, a defense’s mantra, and that’s what they aspire to achieve every game.

To start this season, Dallas’ defense leads the league with eight takeaways-six interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Second-year defensive back Trevon Diggs leads the defense with three picks and is tied with Logan Wilson of the Cincinnati Bengals for the NFL lead in interceptions. This marks the third consecutive game that Diggs has recorded an interception.

Diggs is the first Dallas defensive back to start a season with three straight games with an interception since the great Everson Walls did it back in 1985! And Walls was a bad man! One of my favs! My Lawd!

If you’re keeping count (Cowboys Nation), dating back to the last four games of 2020, Dallas’ defense has forced 20 turnovers during that span. WOW! Eleven interceptions are included in those takeaways, and that’s coming from a secondary that ranked in the bottom of the league in passing yards.

If Dallas’ defense can continue this takeaway trend, then it ultimately benefits Dallas’ offense and that’s where this team can become unstoppable. Giving the ball back to Dak and his offensive weapons equals extra possessions for more points. Even if Dallas fails to score any points after a takeaway, at least it stops the other team from scoring.

Against the lousy Philadelphia Eagles, for example, Dallas intercepted Eagles’ quarterback Jalen Hurts twice. The first interception by Anthony Brown stopped a sure touchdown, the second interception by Diggs was returned for a pick-6. Diggs touchdown put the Eagles further behind and gave Dallas the cushion it needed to put those buzzards away for good.

One of the main reasons why turnovers will be critical to Dallas’ success is that it breeds a ton of confidence and swag. Diggs is playing on a Pro Bowl level and is shutting down opposing team’s best wideouts – Buccaneers Mike Evans and Eagles’ DeVonta Smith. This confidence can be seen in the entire secondary as all of them are battling for balls and at least getting their hands on the ball.

I must remind the critics that Diggs also made an acrobatic interception while covering Allen. 

Slot corner Jourdan Lewis came close to picking off Hurts pass early in the first quarter and could’ve easily walked into the end zone.

As a defensive unit as a whole, Dallas’ secondary did as good of a job as you can expect against the San Diego Chargers dynamic receivers of Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. In 2020, this secondary would’ve been torched and embarrassed by Allen and Williams. But that ain’t happening this year.

Because Diggs has emerged as a legitimate CB1 and will cover the opponents WR1, this allows other corners to step up their game and play aggressively as possible, too. You see it on other teams. Over time, forcing turnovers becomes expectant, a defense’s mantra, and that’s what they aspire to achieve every game.

This mindset helps head coach Mike McCarthy take more chances because he now has a defense that can get him the ball back. Which is probably why Coach Big Mac went for it on 4th and goal because he knew his defense would eventually get him the ball back. Just like a running game is a quarterback’s best friend, so is a defense that creates turnovers for its high powered offense.

Dallas defense ranks 13th in points allowed (only given up 69 points through three games), but has given up 1,206 yards in its first three games. That’s why the great equalizer is to continue to force turnovers until Dallas’ defense can bring back the rest of their starters. It’s only going to get better.

And if Dallas needs any inspiration and motivation, they should look at the 2009 Super Bowl Champions New Orleans Saints defense. The Saints defense ranked 20th in points allowed (21.3) and 25th in yardage allowed. However, the Saints ranked second during the regular season with a whopping 39 takeaways, and then tallied eight more during the postseason.

Man, that’s 47 forced turnovers. My Gawd!

All of those turnovers led to offensive touchdowns engineered by future Hall of Famer Drew Brees and his potent offense. Hopefully, the defense can cut down on the yardage, but if not, creating turnovers will be their saving grace.

Read. Dallas Cowboys: Plenty of positives for the defense in 2021. light

Next. Trevon Diggs is building a reputation as an elite CB. dark

Site expert Reid Hanson explains  how the defense can’t rely on turnovers alone every week, and he’s right. But if this defense can make it their mission to force turnovers and gain the confidence that goes with it, then that’s the key to success for the 2021 Dallas Cowboys and then some. BOOM!