DALLAS - Are you still reeling from the meltdown that was the Texas Rangers? You aren’t alone.
And I know what some of you might be thinking – who can possibly think about football after two straight seasons of losing in the ALDS to the Blue Jays?
Well, I have a remedy that may cure all of our baseball sorrows, and it is the Dallas Cowboys. Specifically, their defense.
Through five weeks, opponents are averaging 18.2 points per game against Dallas’ defense. On Sunday against the Bengals, the Cowboys held Cincinnati scoreless for three quarters. The defensive line constantly harassed Andy Dalton, who was sacked four times.
Dallas had recorded six sacks in its first four games combined, so saying Dalton was under duress is an understatement. He scrambled for his life most of the evening.
The defensive line got some help, though, as defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence returned from his four-game suspension. The added depth was apparent, as the Cowboys were frequently able to apply pressure with just a four-man rush.
But perhaps the most crucial success Dallas has experienced on defense is its ability to milk drives. This was especially evident at the end of the game against the Bengals, when Cincinnati got the ball back trailing 28-7 with under nine minutes to play.
Needing a quick score, the Cowboys forced the Bengals to dink and dunk their way to first downs. In short, Dallas did not give up the big play. It took Cincinnati over five minutes to finally punch the ball into the endzone, and by then, it was too little, too late.
Another reason the Cowboys’ defense has improved is the emergence of defensive back Morris Claiborne. The former first-round pick has dealt with a lot of injuries throughout his young career, but he finally seems to be coming into his own.
Claiborne had two huge pass break-ups against Cincinnati that helped keep momentum with the Cowboys. After getting flagged twice during a drive in the second quarter, Claiborne made up ground, denied A.J. Green and atoned for his sins.
In the fourth quarter, Claiborne made another acrobatic stop, flying high through the air to casually bat a lobbed pass from Dalton out of the back of the endzone.
Claiborne is finally flashing the potential many saw when the Cowboys drafted him out of LSU. Although he has performed well, there is one final element that has aided in the defensive turnaround: the Cowboys offense.
Because Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and the offensive line have been so successful, Dallas is typically able to win the time of possession battle. In fact, the Cowboys have won the possession battle in four of their five games. Since the Cowboys put such a heavy emphasis on running the ball, drives typically last longer, which keeps their defense off the field, leaving them fresher and more energetic when they are called upon.
There is still plenty of season to go, and a huge test looms Sunday when Dallas travels to Lambeau Field to take on the Green Bay Packers. For now, however, the Cowboys can take comfort in knowing their defense is hitting its stride.
Check out Reece on Twitter @ReeceWaddell15 for more thoughts on the Cowboys.
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