FRISCO, Texas - With the regular season beginning to wind down and the playoffs looming just around the bend, the Cowboys still have plenty to play for against the Commanders in Week 18 with a shot at the NFC East title still up for grabs. After picking up wins against both the Eagles and Titans in recent weeks, the coordinators took to the podium to share their thoughts on some of the key points in their units.
Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn:
- Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said while he loved the toughness and grit his players showed on Christmas Eve in that win against Philadelphia, he still felt that there were a few too many 'mental errors' after counting seven. However, following the Titans win, Quinn counted just two mental errors, including only four missed tackles. "Sometimes when you're right in the middle of it, you can miss it," Quinn said of the errors. "And so, to see some of those good focus ones happen and change that was good. Now, we still have work to do, obviously."
- The lack of sacks the Cowboys' defense has accumulated in recent weeks has been a change of pace from their start to the season, though Quinn saw improvement against the Titans in terms of pressures despite the gaudy sack numbers not showing up. Nonetheless, getting back to the quarterback is an emphasis this week according to Quinn. "We've certainly got work to do in both our stunts, and what we want to do to trap a quarterback inside," Quinn said. "So, it's one of the areas this week that is still right on the top of my list of things to nail."
- The loss of linebacker Leighton Vander Esch has been felt by the Cowboys in recent weeks as he works his way back before the beginning of the playoffs, especially in the running game. But outside of that, Quinn talked about Vander Esch's communication skills, as well as his 90 total tackles, and the value that he brings when it comes to helping set the defense. "He is really in tune with the front seven on alignments, adjustments, and things that they can do… That's what you want from a veteran linebacker, and he nailed it."
Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore:
- Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore addressed the Cowboys' major improvements on their third down conversions from earlier in the year up until now, including having the third best conversion rate in the league at just over 47%. "Yes, certainly there was a moment where it's a very big hurdle for us early in the year," Moore said. "So, for our guys to kind of find their groove. I think [there are] certainly a number of players who stepped up and they made tremendous plays."
- Though the Cowboys were without Tony Pollard due to a thigh injury against the Titans, they still managed to run for just 87 yards and only 2.7 yards a carry in the win. Despite that, Moore tipped his hat to a Tennessee run defense that has proven to be one of the best in the league all year. "I think those guys are worthy of getting credit for that defensive philosophy and their staff," Moore said. "There's not an error that occurs on their side."
- The chemistry between Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb has blossomed into extremely positive results in recent weeks for the Cowboys, including three straight 100-yard games for Lamb. For Moore, he has had a front row seat to watching the two of them morph into one of the better quarterback-receiver duos in the NFL. "It's just all the side conversations those guys have now and so much time they spend together," Moore said. "You just see their discussions and talking through things and how on the same page they are. And certainly, you see it on the field with just how decisive Dak is when he goes to [Lamb.]"
Special teams coordinator John Fassel:
- There was potentially no person happier for rookie return man KaVontae Turpin's Pro Bowl selection than special teams coordinator John Fassel. And though Fassel was understandably elated for Turpin, he also hinted that the Cowboys haven't maybe seen the best of him just yet. "Oh my gosh it was awesome," Fassel said. "So, to see where he had been, and how he started and where he's come to, is nothing short of astounding and so proud of him... But I think we both feel like we haven't put even close to our best stuff on tape yet."