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Mailbag: Championship Defense? Play Calling?


All seven Super Bowl winners since 2013 have been in the top 10 in scoring defense. There is constant noise about the "stagnation" of the Cowboys' offense, and its catastrophic potential for a Super Bowl run. While I trust Dak, Kellen and company to work their way out of the apparent funk, do the Cowboys really even need much from their offense than eliminating turnovers if the defense simply continues to ascend? – THOMAS NARRO / ARLINGTON, MA

David: It's a fun debate, and the defense is playing well enough that it's a very good point. I'll just say this: with the exception of the 2013 Seahawks and the 2015 Broncos, all of those other eventual champions played at least one game in the playoffs where they need 27+ points to win. Even great defenses are going to go against offenses that can score on them. I think this defense is capable of helping the Cowboys go deep in the postseason, but I'd love to have just a bit more confidence that the offense is capable of scoring three or more touchdowns if needed.

Nick: I think you still need the balance. I'm a firm believer that games take on a life of their own. You could need 17 points to win a Divisional game but could need 38 to win the NFC Championship Game. It's all about matchups and where you're playing and the field conditions and all that. The good thing is that a great defense typically travels well, regardless of the situation. I do think the Cowboys are a great defense now and this team will lean on that side of the ball. And if you're right, and the offense snaps out of their funk, then they very well might be the best team in this NFC. Either way, it's going to be fun to watch.

I know that September and October football look different than December. Do you feel the play calling became a little too predictable and less creative or just execution is a tad off? – ARLEIGH DUFF / CROMWELL, CT

David: I think the answer is a little bit of both. You can look across the offense and find plenty of examples of bad execution – drops, bad blocks, bad decision-making, inaccurate passes. But I do also think that Kellen Moore is still trying to adjust to defenses having three months of tape on his schemes and tendencies. It just feels to me like the play calling isn't a step ahead of the defense right now, and that definitely seemed to be the case earlier in the year. I think Kellen is still searching for what he can trust when his fastball has been taken away.

Nick: I would lean a little more to execution but you're probably right to assume it could be both. In both cases, I think the lack of continuity can be attributed to both. Injuries, Covid and all that haven't helped this team, but then again, that's every team in the league at this point. I just think the offense has always had one or two things that have tripped them up. Now, it's Dak's job and Kellen's job to figure it out each week. They haven't been great at that here in the last five or six weeks, but to me, there's always hope that it's going to come back. I believe in this group, especially if the offensive line can get Tyron Smith back healthy again.

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