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Mailbag: Defense Reaching Its Potential?

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With the addition of Michael Bennett, the pass rush has come alive. Do you think the rest of the defense can be more consistent moving forward to a possible playoff run? - TOM CALLAHAN / SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, CA

Lindsay: Without a doubt. This group has spoken about ‘peaking at the right time’ for the last week or two. It’s about who heats up in November and December heading to playoffs. Bennett has 3.0 sacks since joining the Cowboys in Week 8, and the defense has held opponents under 250 passing yards in 8 of 10 games (2nd most in NFL). If they can key in on stopping the run, because the numbers say they’re holding their own in the pass-defense, pieces will start falling into place.

Rob: When you’re 7th in total and scoring defense, you’re doing a lot of things well. But it’s about tackling and takeaways. If they find more consistency in those areas, this team can be scary good. That’s what fascinates me about this week’s matchup: This is where the Patriots challenge you most. They dominate the turnover battle and they force defenses to play so fundamentally sound because they get their skill players out in space and force you to tackle well.

Are teams lining up to take Zeke away more than they have in the past? Offensive line isn't making the big holes? Or why haven't we seen those explosive runs from him in 2019? - TOM MILBRANDT / TOWER CITY, ND

Lindsay: Zeke had a hilarious quote this week: “You guys make me feel awkward, like I’m supposed to be pissed because I had 40 yards and we won a football game.” Amazing. He’s right: Dak Prescott is leading the NFL’s top offense while he’s had the most 20-plus yard passes in the league (47). After three years of Zeke domination, the league started to take notice. Teams are committing to run defense against the Cowboys just in time for Prescott to hit his stride – this offense is clearly now two-fold.

Rob: We’re still seeing Elliott move the pile forward and finish runs. We’re still seeing him score touchdowns in different ways (like the screen catch against Detroit) and show up in pass protection (like the chip block he made to give Dak Prescott time on a third-down pass last Sunday). The rushing numbers have been down the last two weeks because, yes, teams have committed to stopping the run. But if you look at the box score and see 509 total yards and 35 points, you’ll take it.

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