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Blog: Missing Run Defense, No Sacks & More

Follow along with the very latest Cowboys updates as staff writers David Helman, Rob Phillips, Nick Eatman and Bryan Broaddus provide in-depth news and analysis.

Colts' Run Success A Rarity For Dallas Defense

(Dec. 16; 5:40 p.m.) – When facing the Indianapolis Colts' offense, the first name that jumps out is quarterback Andrew Luck.

But the Cowboys' core defensive principles start with stopping the run.

The defense allowed a season-high 178 rushing yards in Sunday's 23-0 loss at Lucas Oil Stadium, including 139 and two touchdowns from Marlon Mack – the most by an opposing running back this season.

"In any situation where we're going against a great offense, you have to stop the run," linebacker Jaylon Smith said. "If you don't stop the run in this league, it opens up so many things for them. 

So that's the key to this game and this defense is stopping the run. It's something we've been great at all year. We didn't get the job done today."

The Cowboys entered Sunday ranked third in run defense, allowing only86.8 yards per game. They'd allowed only 66.0 yards per game and 3.8 yards per carry during their recent five-game win streak.

Mack became just the second 100-yard rusher against Dallas this season.

"It's nothing that they did to out-scheme us or anything," defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence said. "It's all about us making our tackles like we've been doing for the last five games."

Said Smith: "We'll learn from it and we'll come back stronger."

-Rob Phillips

Colts' Rookie LB Outshines LVE?

There seems to be a rather strong debate going on for the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year award, with two of the candidates squaring off Sunday in Indy.

If that's the case, Colts linebacker Darius Leonard likely got a boost over Leighton Vander Esch and perhaps Chargers safety Derwin James, who is also being considered for the award.

But in the head-to-head battle between two of the NFL's best young linebackers, Leonard seemed to have the upper hand from the start. He was the one who recovered the blocked field goal on the first drive and eventually led the Colts in tackles with 11. He also had a tackle for loss and two pass deflections.

Vander Esch, who was the NFL's Rookie of the Month for November (an honor that Leonard won in September), was credited for eight tackles against the Colts. His playing time was cut into somewhat with the return of Sean Lee, who rotated with Vander Esch at the WILL (weakside linebacker).

Leonard was drafted by the Colts in the second round out of South Carolina State.

-Nick Eatman

Cowboys' Defense Gets Shut Out, Too

The Hot Boyz were cooled off in a major way Sunday against the Colts, who don't allow their quarterback Andrew Luck to get hit often.

That didn't change despite facing what had been a relentless unit from the Cowboys.

But not only did the offense get shut out on the scoreboard, the defense was held without a quarterback sack for the first time this season. In fact, of the previous 13 games, only twice were the Cowboys held to just one sack.

But they couldn't generate much pressure on Luck, who get rid of the ball quickly at times, but also moved around in the pocket to avoid getting hit.

With no sacks on the road in Indy, the Cowboys now have just 12 road sacks in seven games, and 23 at home, where they will return next Sunday to face the Buccaneers.

-Nick Eatman

Su'a-Filo Injured In First Half vs. Colts

(Dec. 16; 1 p.m.) – The Cowboys' offensive line depth continues to be tested.

Starting left guard Xavier Su'a-Filo will not return to Sunday's game against the Colts after injuring his eye in the first half on a failed fourth-down attempt in the red zone. Adam Redmond has replaced Su'a-Filo at left guard.

(UPDATE: Head coach Jason Garrett told reporters after the game that they're optimistic about Su'a-Filo's injury status moving forward.)

Rookie Connor Williams started at right guard for an injured Zack Martin (sprained knee).

Elsewhere on the roster, wide receiver Cole Beasley missed a few plays in the second quarter after appearing to hurt his foot or ankle, but he returned later on the same drive.

-Rob Phillips

Sean Lee is officially back in the lineup for Week 15.

(Dec. 16, 11:38p.m.) –It's been a long time coming for Lee, who re-aggravated his injured hamstring in the Cowboys' Nov. 5 loss to Tennessee. The veteran linebacker mixed his way back into practice this past week and is expected to rotate with the duo of Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith.

Lee was not among the Cowboys' seven inactives announced prior to kickoff, although Tavon Austin was. Austin also mixed back into practice this week, but the Cowboys decided he's not quite ready to return to the lineup.

The team's inactives for this early kick against the Colts are Mike White, Austin, Chris Covington, Zack Martin, Geoff Swaim, David Irving and Taco Charlton.

The Cowboys announced that Martin would be inactive for this game on Friday, but it's still a tough blow for their offensive line. The All-Pro guard has never missed a game going all the way back to high school, and it will be up to rookie Connor Williams to fill his spot on the Cowboys' right side.

Charlton is a healthy inactive for a second-consecutive week after missing the 29-23 win against Philadelphia. Asked about it earlier this week, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said the coaching staff wants to create competition and force defensive linemen to earn a jersey on game day.

With Randy Gregory playing well over the last month, there haven't been as many snaps available for the 2017 first-round pick. Charlton played just four defensive snaps in the Nov. 29 win against the New Orleans Saints.

Swaim is still recovering from breaking a bone in his wrist on Nov. 18, and David Irving is still recovering from the high ankle sprain he suffered in practice coming off the bye week.

-David Helman