While the Cowboys continue to battle for their postseason existence, it has been the defense that has been carrying the team. Since quarterback Tony Romo's return the Cowboys have rattled off fours wins in their last five games.
While Romo has been one of the catalysts in this turnaround, it really has been the play of the defense for the team’s recent surge into playoff contention.
In the team’s first nine games, the Cowboys defense allowed 219-points (24.3 per game) and registered just 26 sacks. On Nov. 2 in Week Nine against their division rivals, the Cowboys were blown out by the Giants
in the Meadow-lands 35-14.
The loss dropped their record to 5-4 and had the team on the playoff bubble looking in from the outside.
It was following this devastating loss to New York that had the Cowboys reeling and asking questions, but little did the NFL
world realize it would be the "D" in Big "D" that would answer.
The Cowboys had their starting quarterback back in the lineup and that may have been just what the team and the defense needed to get their swagger back. In their Week 11 matchup following their bye, the Cowboys defense began a run of dominance that has the team situated smack in the middle of playoff contention and on the rise to make noise in the postseason.
In Week 11, against the Redskins
the Cowboys defense limited their foes to just 228-yards of offense and 10 points, while recording three sacks and forcing one turnover. This would be the first of five games that the Cowboys defense would come to life, flex its muscle and dominate like one of the leagues very best.
From Weeks 11 through 15 the Cowboys defense has simply been smothering and suffocating its opponents, recording 27 sacks and forcing nine turnovers. Big "D" has also been limiting opposing offenses to an average of 262-net yards per game, while having surrendered just four offensive touchdowns during this run.
Opponents in the last five games have totaled 69 points scored for13.8-points per game average. This recent surge in great play by the defense has elevated the Cowboys to the number one pass rushing unit in the league with 53 total sacks and their 287-yards allowed per game ranks 7th overall.
The Cowboys have also vastly improved their run defense limiting opponents to just 68-yards per game over the team’s last five matchups.
One of the biggest keys for the Cowboys big turnaround on defense has been the spectacular play of linebacker DeMarcus Ware. The Cowboys linebacker has registered at least one sack in the team’s last six games and over the last five he has 25 total tackles to go along with 9 sacks to lead the defense.
His 19 total sacks this season is tops in the NFL. He just needs four more to break Michael Strahan's single season record. Ware has not been alone on the defensive side getting the job, linebackers Bradie James, Greg Ellis, and nose tackle Jay Ratliff have also been big contributors.
James has recorded 44 tackles (8.8 tackles per game), including 30 solo, to go with three sacks in the teams last five games. Ellis has also added 4.5 sacks in the past five games. Along with disruption in the middle and clogging the run, Ratliff has added 19 total tackles to go along with three sacks during the same stretch.
With two games left against the Ravens (9-5) and the Eagles (8-5-1), there appears to be no let up in sight for Ware and company. The Cowboys are a front-runner to make the post season, but there is very little room for error.
With Big "D" ready to host its final home game at Texas Stadium, the defense prepares to face a tough Ravens team on Saturday night. For those that hunger for NFL excitement, both the Cowboys and Ravens have much at stake, both are physical teams that will bring it, no-holds barred; the table is set and the dinner bell rings at 8 PM ET Saturday night.
Get your popcorn ready
By David G. Ortega