For the first time in his NFL career, DeMarcus Ware was unable to suit up for the Dallas Cowboys. His defensive teammates stepped up in his absence, however, helping Dallas earn a 17-3 victory over the Eagles in Week 7.
The Philadelphia offense might have been at home in this game, but it had no advantage over the visitors. Big D got pressure on the Philly quarterbacks, shut down LeSean McCoy and didn't allow big plays. In other words, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's crew was downright stingy.
Even without the presence of Ware, Anthony Spencer and former Cowboy Jay Ratliff, the defensive line earned three sacks on the day. George Selvie was in on two of the sacks, while linebacker Sean Lee earned one on his own.
Eagles' quarterback Matt Barkley threw three interceptions to the likes of Lee, Brandon Carr and Barry Church. Nick Foles and Barkley threw just 22 completions on 49 attempts for 209 yards.
These are not numbers one would expect from a defense that had given up 30 or more points in half its games so far. It is also the same defensive unit that was ranked No. 30 in the entire NFL heading into the bout at Lincoln Financial Field.
There were a few inexcusable penalties and miscues here and there, but Kiffin's defense was lights out 95 percent of the time in Philly. Pro Bowl rusher LeSean McCoy tallied just 55 yards on 18 carries. His longest run of the day was for 12 yards, just two shy of Foles and Joseph Randle's longest rush.
The Cowboys caused turnovers, took McCoy out of the game and didn't allow a touchdown. One cannot pick too many holes in the game this defense put together in Week 7. Considering it was missing a future Hall of Famer, the Dallas D deserves credit for shutting down the NFL's No. 4 offense.
A week after keeping Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris and co. to 16 points, Big D didn't allow an offensive touchdown. The Redskins offense put up 45 points in Week 7, and the Eagles had 31 in Week 6.
Kiffin's unit has shut down two of the NFC's more talented offenses, at least on paper, these past two games. This is a defense that has weathered the absence of a 2012 Pro Bowler in Spencer all year and its leader in Ware in Week 7.
Those are two losses that would cripple most franchise's defensive line. Instead, the Dallas D has stepped up, tallying six sacks in the past two victories.
It's a little early to say that the Dallas defense has rebounded from its early season woes. What these past few games do prove, however, is that this unit has the ability to be much better than No. 30 in the league.