D-line Fuels 'Boys Defensive Surge

get to make one yourself, but it is once in a while.

A gang of reporters approached d-end Marcus Spears in the locker room Monday, several looking for quotes about the outstanding year James is having. Why, one demanded, is Bradie playing so well?

"It has a lot to do with the way he plays," says Spears. "But it also has a lot to do with the guys that surround him. Jay Ratliff is doing a great job. Chris (Canty) is doing a great job. I'm playing blocks well. (Jason) Hatcher and Steve Bowen and Tank (Johnson) when they get in, same thing. Maybe one day someone will say our d-line is pretty good around here and that we do our job well, because other guys benefit from the way we play."

In a world where selfish rants are too commonplace in football locker rooms, this is not that. The Dallas defense experienced a lot of frustration through a middle point in the year where the results were not what everyone wanted (sometimes not what anyone wanted). Since whatever happened in late October against Tampa Bay, that has begun to change. Go to Washington and hold them to 228 yards and one touchdown. Two goals-to-go from the four against San Francisco yield only two field goals. No touchdowns for Seattle. A remarkable effort in Pittsburgh.

All Spears and his buddies want is the occasional "atta-boy" while flowers are (deservedly) strewn at the feet of Ware and James.

"I haven't spoken out too much about that because it sounds like you're tooting your own horn," Spears says plaintively. "But forget me. For the five other guys who play d-line, give them some credit for the other guys being able to make some plays."

Has anything changed up front in recent weeks? Phillips says no, other than Canty having improved his play lately. "Tank was hurt the first part of the year," says Phillips. "He's been healthy and he's been playing better. But Ratliff has been great all year and Spears has been solid and Bowen and Hatcher have been doing what they do. It's not that much different."

"I think as a d-line, we know our role," says Spears. "It's tough as a football player to always hear that we're not productive or we're not making plays. At the beginning of the season maybe you try to press and create things for yourself. But then you get to the point where you realize that this successful defense is only going to be that way if you do your job. That's what we've started doing. So if our sack totals aren't through the roof and we haven't had nine or ten tackles a game, that's okay. But for Bradie to wind up with 12 or 13 tackles and Zach to have 12 tackles and D-Ware is rushing on backs because we're taking blocks off of him, then obviously something we're doing is helping this defense play well."

Something indeed. Now here come the big, bad Number One in Everything, Super Bowl Champion, Invented the Game New York Football Giants.

The Cowboys defense doesn't care.

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