IRVING Veteran safety Will Allen was released by the Cowboys on Tuesday. Allen is a football casualty from a Dallas defense that started the year fast, but is now ranked near the bottom of the league.

'At this point you have to stay positive and find a way to get better as a defense,' said linebacker Sean Lee.

But it's hard to be positive when you look at the stats.

The Cowboys rank next-to-last in the NFL in pass defense, giving up 326 yards through the air. And they're ranked in the lower third of the league in the all-important scoring defense ranking, giving up 27 points a game.

'We got a sense of pride in this group,' said defensive lineman Jason Hatcher. 'Guys are down right now. You know I'm hurting, because I'm part of this defense.'

Among the Cowboys' biggest defensive issues: A lack of pressure up front in recent games. The Cowboys have zero sacks in the last game-and-a-half. That's a huge contrast to the 14 they tallied in the first 3-and-a-half games.

Injury certainly factors in. Defensive linemen Demarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher, and George Selvie are all nicked up. But they know they've still got a job to do.

'Its no excuse... I'm not making excuses at all,' Hatcher said. 'We've got to go out there and pressure the quarterback. I've got to find a way to split the double-team when they do it. We gotta go out there and affect the quarterback. That's what they pay us to do. That's what we've got to do.'

The sooner they do it, the better for a Cowboys team now 2-3 on the season.


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