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Cowboys Mailbag: December 12, 2011

/ Editor's Note: Each weekday,'s writers will field two questions from the fans. Click here to email your question now. **

ISMAIL ABBASI LORTON, VA: What is going on with this defense?

Nick:They're not making plays in the end of the games. They do a nice job before that, and have gotten pressure and turnovers at key points throughout the games this year. But when it comes down to that critical stop, it's not happening. The pressure seems to be lacking at those times. Maybe it's a product of aggressive play-calling that occurs throughout the game is pulled back in those stretches.

Josh:The same thing that happened last year. Over the course of this season, Rob Ryan's plate-spinning has been exposed. Now that teams have some more tape on these players in his scheme, there is no element of surprise. That explains why they've deteriorated during the course of individual games this year, and throughout the season. I wouldn't expect things to get much better until the personnel improves.

SCOTT STREAMS DEQUINCY, LA I think penalties were just as much to blame as the defense giving up a ton of yardage on Sunday night. Against the Giants, 10 penalties is unacceptable. What can be done to alter the trend of penalties costing us games?

Nick: That's one of the toughest questions to ask. What can be done to fix penalties? Lots of things. For one, get better players. Better players are in better position and don't hold and grab all the time. Smarter players are focused on what they're doing and don't have pre-snap penalties. Disciplined players can do both of those things.

Josh:I think Nick's answer is probably the best one. Better, smarter players will commit fewer dumb penalties. All the coaching in the world can't make a guy not jump offside or get a little too aggressive with a receiver in the heat of the moment.

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