Thursday, January 14, 2010

Cowboys defense hopes to avoid the big play

Posted on January 14, 2010 at 6:29 PM
Updated today at 6:29 PM

When the Eagles scored on a 76 yard play on Saturday to tie the Wild Card Playoff game at seven against the Philadelphia Eagles, it was exactly the type of play the Cowboys defense didn't want to give up. Shutting down the big play and creating pressure up front with great coverage on the back side has been the key to the Cowboys success on defense.

"Nobody wants to be playing their assignment and then turn around and see a guy tailing down the sideline or a ball going through the air," says Cowboys linebacker Bobby Carpenter. "It takes a lot of wind out of your sails and when you're playing at a high level, you want to make sure your stopping them on every play."

Before that 76 yard play, the last touchdown the defense had allowed was a seven yard play in week 15 against the Saints which was followed by back to back shutouts.

The cowboys defense and primary goal has been not to give up the big play, and lately it's been working. Of course, it also helps to have a kickoff specialist who led the league in touchbacks during the regular season.

"With the way David Buehler backs guys up and make them start on the twenty, or less, you want teams to have to put drives together on you and as a defense, that plays to your advantage," says Cowboys defensive end Marcus Spears. "Giving up big plays and quick scores, it's tough to come back from that."

In plays of 20 yards or longer, the Minnesota offense has had 70 plays which is tied for 6th in the league. By comparison, Dallas has had 75 plays which is 2nd in the league.

The Dallas defense was 11th in the league allowing just 54 plays of 20 or more yards and compared to the Vikings, Minnesota's defense allowed 58.

"We'd have to beat ourselves to lose," says Cowboys safety Gerald Sensabaugh. "The way we're playing right now and all the numerous guys making plays, I don't think we can be beat."

Which are some big words coming from players on a defense that are playing with a lot of confidence right now.

"It's hard to dunk and dive in this league especially around playoff time," says Sensabaugh. "Everybody is playing together and a lot of offenses are more conservative because they don't want to give up interceptions or have any big mistakes."

"Anytime you don't give up the big play, you're going to help your defense," says Carpenter. "You force them to drive the football, and the more they're on the field, the more opportunities you have to create turnovers and for them to make a mistake."

Sunday's game will match two defenses who both finished in the NFL top ten. Minnesota finished the season as the 6th best in the league while Dallas finished 9th.