Defense Getting By Without Takeaways, But Determined To Do More

FRISCO, Texas – It gets lost in the shuffle of an eight-game winning streak, but the Cowboys have once again forgotten how to take the ball away.

It's not a new problem. This team was famously futile at forcing takeaways in 2015, finishing with just 11 on the year. They weren't exactly prolific to start 2016, but they did have a respectable nine in the first six games – highlighted by a whopping four takeaways in the Week 6 win at Green Bay.

Obviously, the team is still winning, but that number has dropped to just one in the last three games. In back-to-back road wins at Cleveland and Pittsburgh, the Cowboys didn't manage one takeaway. It's a stat that defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli agreed was concerning.

"Oh, yeah. Yes, that's who we are," Marinelli said. "We've got to get it to get where we want to keep going each week. You've got to get them."

It's such an inexact science, because the ability to force turnovers is all about bounces of the ball. Last Sunday, DeMarcus Lawrence stripped Le'Veon Bell of the ball on the Pittsburgh 27-yard line – only to see Byron Jones fail to secure the fumble before it fell out of bounds.

Lawrence joked Thursday that he hasn't let the safety forget about it.

"I gave him a hard time. Because, if I run all the way across the field and bless you with a fumble, you've got to scoop it up and score. That's just the way we roll," he said.

That might not be totally fair, to hear it from Marinelli. Given the proximity of the sideline, Marinelli said Jones was dealing with more of a "city fumble" than a "country fumble." And if those two terms sound foreign, Marinelli will gladly clear them up.

"A country is a little more open area, so you can go ahead and scoop it. A city, you want to jump on it," he said.

Marinelli added that Jones made the right decision on the play – he simply has to secure the ball.

Fortunately for the Cowboys, they've proven to be exceptionally good at protecting the ball. Despite managing just 10 takeaways on the year, they're still in the NFL's top 10 in turnover differential – mainly because their offense as only turned the ball over seven times.

The recipe has been working to this point, but Cowboys coach Jason Garrett would say there's always room for improvement. Dallas has only won the turnover battle in four of nine games to this point – but the record is still 8-1.

As Lawrence pointed out, a few more extra possessions could make all the difference in the world.

"For the most part we've been doing a good job without taking the ball away, but what Coach Garrett said – it'd be a bludgeoning if we do," he said.

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