EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ
The last time the Cowboys won a playoff game (2009), the Cowboys only had 21 takeaways the entire season. Nine games through the 2013 season, the Cowboys already have 21 takeaways. Do you believe the increased number of takeaways will be able to mask the other deficiencies of the defense?
Rowan: If they can keep taking away the ball at the rate they're doing it, then I think it can. The defense is allowing an inordinate amount of yardage, but the rate they're creating takeaways is also somewhat astonishing after last season. The offense hasn't taken advantage of those takeaway as often as they need to. The defense is fighting through a ton of injuries, and the offensive playmakers need to be taking over games more often.
David: Yeah, I'd like to think so. A bad defense can still play at a high level if it is taking the ball away. Think back to the season opener, when they put up six turnovers and scored a defensive touchdown. They created a plus-four turnover margin against Detroit, despite allowing an unbelievably high amount of yardage. Same goes for Minnesota – two turnovers and another touchdown. The Cowboys are 4-2 in games where they forced more than one turnover, and I have to consider the Detroit game to be about the biggest blown opportunity you're going to see this season. So yes. If you're taking the ball away, you can still win games – even if you're giving up a lot of gains.
Barring further injury, do you see this D-line just getting better over the last seven games, and can they be just good enough to keep the game in hand for the offense?
Rowan:I see it staying about the same if not a little better, but that can be good enough for the offense to win games. This stinger injury is [embedded_ad] something to keep an eye on for Jason Hatcher, and we'll have to see if he can continue to play through that and still play at the Pro Bowl level he's been at. Obviously, getting DeMarcus Ware back would also be a huge boost. George Selvie appears to be the real deal, but we'll see what the rest of the group can do when teams start getting more tape on them.
David: There's something to be said for creating chemistry and maintaining some kind of continuity with all the guys they've brought in. And that could help them improve if they do that. But I also think talent shines through over a long enough period of time. I don't think any of these "no name" guys are going to turn into Pro Bowlers – although George Selvie may merit consideration before it's all said and done. What would help them the most is if DeMarcus Ware returned and was able to play at a strong level over the last month or two. A healthy Ware and Hatcher, combined with these surprisingly effective additions, would be a pretty good combination, as we saw earlier this year.