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Dan Quinn restates confidence in defense: 'That was us'


FRISCO, Texas — The energy around The Star on Monday was noticeably different than at the same point last week when the Cowboys were rebounding from an ugly loss on the road, as the team recovers from a huge 38-3 win over the New England Patriots and rejuvenates ahead of a big matchup against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night.

Monday saw defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheiemer and special teams coordinator John Fassel take the podium to discuss the big victory and to look ahead to the upcoming road test.

Here are the highlights from the availability with all three coordinators.

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Dan Quinn was specifically self-critical following the week three loss to Arizona in saying that his defensive unit played out of character in allowing 222 rushing yards and 28 points in one of the uglier losses that he has had since arriving in Dallas.

The tone on Monday was much brighter after a stifling performance that saw the Cowboys force three turnovers while allowing just three points.

"Last week, I sat up here and was discouraged about our performance, and said that wasn't us," Quinn said. "Yesterday, that was us. The energy, the hitting, the ball-hawking. That is us and that felt more like our style and attitude."

Inside the Fake PAT

John Fassel pulled a unique trick out of his bag on Sunday when punter/holder Bryan Anger took a snap on a PAT attempt and set up a hold before immediately pulling it, standing up and firing a pass to defensive lineman Chauncey Golston who did the rest in running it into the end zone for two points.

"Every week, we're looking for anything and most of the time there's nothing there," Fassel said. "If you get the look you're hoping for and you have the guts to call it – and Coach McCarthy called it at the right time. We practiced it all week. After the first PAT, we liked the look that we saw based on what we studied and said, 'Let's do it on the second one.'"

The conversion was the NFL's first successful fake PAT since the league pushed back extra points to the 15-yard line in 2015.

Nothing Bland About Bland

Second-year cornerback DaRon Bland has impressed everyone in the building from the moment he was being evaluated as a draft prospect out of Fresno State in 2022 to when he was called upon to step into a major role once again in 2023 when Trevon Diggs went down with a season-ending injury.

"There's never been anything that's been too big for him. He has a small school background but he doesn't come across that way," Quinn said. "He really took to the coaching. He's a wolf in sheep's clothing, a real competitor. He's someone that we really count on."

Bland's two interceptions on Sunday – including one that was returned for a touchdown – have him at the top of the list of most interceptions across the NFL since he entered the league in 2022 (8).

On the Offensive

Despite red zone struggles offensively that have Brian Schottenheimer's offensive unit looking at just six touchdowns on 19 red zone trips through four games, the Cowboys are No. 1 in the league in 10-plus-play drives as the offensive production outside the 20-yard line has yet to be limited.

"We feel like we're playing really well between the 20s," Schottenheimer said. "Right now, we're playing very well on third down. The struggles in the red zone, you look at it and say you're struggling there. The control and command that Dak has on our third down attack is pretty cool. The ball is getting spread around to different people."

Fowler's Ferocity

Since arriving in Dallas ahead of the 2022 season, eight-year veteran Dante Fowler Jr. has made timely impact plays defensively which was emphasized on Sunday when he strip sacked Mac Jones that led to a Leighton Vander Esch touchdown deep in Patriots territory.

"What he has a real knack for, how many forced fumbles he has," Quinn said. "He can really bend. What I remember looking at the iPad after, was how low he was underneath him. He was able to react quickly and get his rush going. He saw an indicator and said, 'I gotta go here.' That's what makes him special."

Fowler's play on Sunday was his 13th forced fumble of his career and his third since joining the Cowboys.

Aubrey's Range

Rookie kicker Brandon Aubrey was almost put to the ultimate test on Sunday when he was sent out to attempt a 66-yard field goal at the end of the first half to keep his streak of consecutive field goals to start an NFL career going.

However, a defensive line movement up front caused Chuma Edoga to move early for a false start penalty that prevented Aubrey from taking a swing at tying the NFL record for the longest field goal. When asked if that is within his range, Fassel was confident in the young kicker's chances even though he said that he has not seen him kick it from that range in their short time together.

"I have not, but I know he can," Fassel said on if he's seen him make it from 66. "He's got that in him. They were alert for it and stemmed their front which caused Chuma to move. I would've loved to have seen that kick."

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