IRVING, Texas – Sean Lee was on injured reserve when the Cowboys met the Green Bay Packers in January for the divisional playoff game. Rolando McClain left the game with a head injury after one series.
Nearly a year later, with the team's return to Lambeau Field four days away, the two linebackers are playing their best football together.
In Monday night's 19-16 win over the Washington Redskins, Lee and McClain combined for 23 tackles. Lee added a sack – the second of his career – and two tackles for loss.
"I thought his performance (Monday) night was him at his best," head coach Jason Garrett said. "I think if you look at the plays he made, he made so many different kinds of plays. He sacked the quarterback, he pressured the quarterback, and he made plays sideline to sideline, tackles for loss, plays right at him. He was just outstanding in this game.
"When you have those two guys playing as well as they do, you can see why were able to slow them down offensively."
Active for all but one game this season, Lee has thrived at the weak-side linebacker spot with McClain occupying blockers at middle linebacker.
"It's nice to be back playing with this defense, feeling healthy," Lee said Monday night. "It's the best I've felt physically, and the better I feel physically the better I'll probably play."
McClain has made his share of plays, too. His snaps have risen incrementally in recent weeks – he has only come off the field for eight of 182 defensive plays the last three games. Despite spending the first four games on the Reserve/Suspended list, he ranks fourth on defense with 68 tackles, reaching double-digits in three of the last four games. Lee is first with 112.
McClain, who missed the entire offseason program as well as training camp following a knee scope, provides a physical presence in the middle of the defense, particularly in the run game. Opponents have averaged only 3.47 yards per carry against the Cowboys in the last four games.
He appears to be finding his rhythm in the defense after so much time off.
"He missed a lot of that time. But he's a damn good football player and he's one of those guys that can pick it up quickly as he goes," Garrett said.
Together, McClain and Lee fortify the middle of the Cowboys' defense, which will face arguably its biggest challenge this season Sunday against Aaron Rodgers.