Better Plug This Recent Leak

against the run, allowing Oakland's LaMont Jordan to pile up 126 rushing yards. 

And at this point, many were wondering if the Cowboys were simply not suited to play the 3-4 defense. Opponents seemed to be gashing them on the edges, especially around rookie DeMarcus Ware's corner. 

But the Cowboys quickly plugged this leak. None of their next four opponents rushed for more than 91 yards. Suddenly Ware was making more plays in the running game than the passing game. The Cowboys, who won three of those four games and did not allow more than 13 points in any of them, suddenly found themselves the NFL's sixth-ranked defense and fifth against the run, giving up just 89.1 a game. 

But now this. What's happened? 

Well, for starters, left outside linebacker Al Singleton was placed on injured reserve with his fractured collarbone just before the start of this five-game stretch. He has been replaced by Scott Fujita, who has struggled against the run up until Sunday's game, when Parcells said the former Chief played his best game with the Cowboys. 

The Cowboys also lost Dat Nguyen for good, placing their inside linebacker on injured reserve after Thanksgiving. Scott Shanle has replaced him, but had replaced him in the starting lineup all the way back on Oct. 9 when the streak of goodness began. 

Parcells had a bad feeling going into that Kansas City game, really worried about his defense, and specifically his run defense, because of the Chiefs' rather salty and experienced offensive line. And remember, he was worried to the point of knowing he would have to open up his own offense to keep up with the high-scoring Chiefs, for better or worse. 

"Oh yeah, we could have done a lot of things better," Parcells said of allowing the Chiefs 493 total yards and the most points since San Francisco put up 31 in the third game of the season. "But that's the kind of game where rookie - young defensive players' inexperience shows up. They get confused with the window dressing and don't have enough experience to understand what's going on. 

"Sometimes inexperienced players are confused by (the shifting). And that happened to us quite a bit yesterday." 

The Cowboys, after all, are a young defensive unit. They start three rookies: Ware, Marcus Spears and Chris Canty, who has started the past two games in place of Greg Ellis. They also start three other first-time starters: Bradie James, Shanle and Keith Davis. And the last two games they started Jason Ferguson in place of La'Roi Glover at nose tackle. 

Whatever, this must stop. The Cowboys have gone 3-2 during this five-game stretch of struggling against the run, and experienced their first two-game losing streak of the season. The defense has fallen to 10th in the league and 13th against the run. And their brief, two-week stay in first place in the NFC East has turned into a one-game deficit with three to go. 

And if the leakage doesn't, then it will be necessary for the not-yet-trusted offense to come and mop things up.   

MICK SHOTS

     
  Betting Parcells is closely watching that Redskins cornerback situation before deciding on his plan of offensive attack on Sunday. The Skins' top three corners are injured: Shawn Springs with a hyperextension of the lower back and strained groin; Carlos Rogers with a left bicep, bad enough to have his arm placed in a sling; and Walt Harris, a nine-game starter, with a strained calf which kept him out of Sunday's Arizona game. 
  Only three quarterbacks in the NFC this season have thrown more passes than Drew Bledsoe's 408: Brett Favre (490), Eli Manning (460) and Aaron Brooks (431). And to think those run-oriented Cowboys have only run the ball 26 more times than they have passed it. 
  Interesting idea lining up Terence Newman and then Tyson Thompson out wide on multiple-receiver sets. Hey, with their

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