IRVING, Texas – Way back in the offseason, cornerback Brandon Carr made plenty of headlines with his "taking over the league" comment. He later said it was less about him and more about this defense ready to take its game to a new level for the 2014 season.
Either way, the eye-rolls and giggles that followed were prevalent.
But when asked about that comment on Tuesday, Carr nodded with a *who's-laughing-now *grin on his face. While the rest of the league might be surprised the Cowboys' defense is playing so well after the catastrophic 2013 performance, Carr said this is about what he expected all along. But he certainly isn't satisfied.
"I'm not surprised at all," Carr said. "My mindset … it's 17 weeks. (Just) six weeks in … It's about the full season. We have to keep our heads down and stay focused and grind this whole thing out. We can't be content with whatever our record is. We want more. Guys are willing to go the extra mile to get the results we want."
So far, the defense is producing results. After the first six games, the Cowboys' defense has allowed just 11 touchdowns from opposing offenses. In 2013, opponents had already scored 17 touchdowns on the defense, averaging a full touchdown a game more.
Through six games, the Cowboys rank right in the middle of total defense at No. 16. Then again, there aren't many teams in the league that are atop the offensive standings and defense as well. Denver (ninth offensively and fourth defensively) and Washington (seventh, tenth) are the only teams that rank in the Top 10 in both.
The Cowboys have the fourth-best offense, with the No. 1 rushing attack, thanks to DeMarco Murray, who has a comfortable lead in the race for the rushing title with 785 yards. Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell is second with 542 yards.
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said Murray and the running game is a huge reason for the defensive turnaround.
"Those guys are doing a great job over there – they're keeping the ball and keeping us off the field," Marinelli said. "When you have that, it's easier to play defense. Our guys have stayed fresh and we're rotating a lot too, especially on the line. So you add all that up, and that's why we're playing really well as a team. They're helping us and maybe we're helping them some, too."
Last week against the Seahawks, a team that prides itself for getting off the field defensively, and keeping the clock and chains moving offensively with a power running attack, couldn't do that Sunday. The Cowboys' defense got off the field, holding Seattle to just 5-of-13 on third-down conversions. That's one of the reasons, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks had the ball for just 22:21 of time of possession. The Cowboys controlled it for 37:39, but made the game closer on the scoreboard because of costly fumbles and a blocked punt for a touchdown.
So what's really changing? Carr said it's a mindset of these young players buying into the process that coach Jason Garrett has been preaching all along.
"This defense is maturing," Carr said. "Guys are accepting their roles and taking it to the next level. We're going out there to take the extra step and figure out what's going on. It's all about accountability. Once guys finally figure out the significance we have amongst each other, it's really big. It's contagious. Guys are really honing on what we're supposed to do. Nobody wants to be the weak link right now."