Defense was the Dallas Cowboys’ calling card to start the season, but in the last two games, opponents have scored a combined 60 points. So what happened?
In Weeks 1 through 7, the Cowboys allowed 13 points per game. But in Weeks 8 and 10, (Dallas had a Week 9 bye) the defense allowed 30 points per game.
What’s plaguing Big D is its inability to stop the run. It took a few weeks, but the word is out that if you want to beat the Cowboys, you run the damn ball.
In Week 8, Chicago Bears QB Justin Fields only threw 23 passes. But Chicago ran the ball 43 times for 240 yards and scored 29 points. Luckily, the Cowboys offense picked up the slack and scored 49 points. Despite the win, a clear weakness from Dallas was exposed.
Last week, the Green Bay Packers took a very similar approach. So much so, ESPN reported that 62% of Green Bay’s play calls were designed runs. Never has there been a higher run rate in a game started by Aaron Rodgers.
Who can blame the Packers for running that much? RBs Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon combined for 203 rushing yards on 37 attempts. Rodgers only threw the ball 20 times in the Packers win.
So what do the Cowboys need to do to stop the bleeding?
The problem is glaring
All week, Cowboys coaches and players have fielded questions from the media about the lackluster run defense. Dan Quinn emphasized the pride the defense needs to take in stopping the run.
Micah Parsons echoed the same sentiment, saying it just comes down to every player on the defense doing their job. Parsons told the media:
“We have to hold our gaps, come downhill and stop them. It’s going to keep happening until we stop it. Period. Until we put this out, them running the ball, we’ll never be as good as we need to be.”
When Quinn was questioned about the Cowboys having the right personnel to get the job done, he put full confidence in his player’s abilities to figure this thing out.
Things won’t get easier
The Cowboys have some winnable games coming up on the schedule, but will be tested by a star RB nearly every week moving forward. Here’s who Dallas’s defense will be tasked with stopping, and where they rank among the NFL’s top rushers:
- Week 11: Minnesota Vikings RB Dalvin Cook – 727 rushing yards (8th)
- Week 12: New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley – 931 rushing yards (2nd)
- Week 13: Indianapolis Colts RB Jonathan Taylor – 609 rushing yards (15th)
- Week 14: Houston Texans RB Dameon Pierce – 772 rushing yards (6th)
- Week 15: Jacksonville Jaguars RB Travis Etienne – 725 rushing yards (9th)
- Week 16: Philadelphia Eagles RB Miles Sanders – 710 rushing yards (10th)
- Week 17: Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry – 1,010 rushing yards (1st)
The only player outside of the top 10 in yards is Taylor, who was the NFL’s leading rusher in 2021. But he’s dealt with injuries this season which has reduced his yardage totals.
Week in and week out, offenses are going to continue attacking the Cowboys’ obvious weakness until it’s figured out.