Nick Eatman is the author of the recently published ****If These Walls Could Talk: Dallas Cowboys****, a collection of stories from the Cowboys' locker room, sideline and press box, with a foreword written by Darren Woodson.
IRVING, Texas- In six games this season, there has been a common denominator in five of them:
No turnovers by the defense.
That'll be the reason why the Cowboys are dead last in turnovers forced (3) and dead last in turnover margin (minus-9).
It'll also be the reason why this team is sitting at 2-4 heading into Sunday's clash with the Seahawks.
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli admits he has never seen his defenses struggle to take the ball away like this. But, the emphasis level won't change.
"We're working on it. We've got to," he said Thursday. "It's the difference between winning and losing. We've come up on the short end. We're still stripping, they're coming, but we have to get more. We're going to constantly emphasize it."
The Cowboys didn't record a turnover in a Week 1 win over the Giants, but followed that with three turnovers in the next game at Philadelphia, a 20-10 victory over the Eagles.
Since then, though, it's been four straight games of goose eggs in the turnover department. Absolutely no takeaways in this four-game losing streak, which has seen the Cowboys plummet from 2-0 to 2-4 and last in the NFC East.
"I've not had a dry spell this far – not like this," said Marinelli, who has 20 years of NFL coaching experience. "We're going to keep being positive and keep emphasizing in practice. When they break, it's going to break. We just have to get that one."
Earlier this week, head coach Jason Garrett admitted the coaching staff has even discussed the notion of decreasing the emphasis of turnovers in meetings, just to perhaps buck the trend. But Marinelli said changing his habits isn't that easy, especially since his entire defensive philosophy has always involved generating turnovers.
"I just do what I do," he said. "I just do what I've done my entire career. That's really all you can do."
In every game during this stretch, the Cowboys have had some near-misses that have resulted in wasted opportunities. Against the Falcons, Morris Claiborne dropped an interception near the goal line, just a few plays before Atlanta scored its first touchdown.
The next week, cornerback Tyler Patmon dropped an interception on a play that might have resulted in a defensive touchdown and safety Barry Church had an interception called back because of a penalty. They also had a forced fumble overturned because the runner's knee had hit the ground first.
In the next game, Corey White had a similar play that he dropped with no one in front of him and Church failed to scoop up a fumble by Tom Brady on a Greg Hardy sack.
Last week in New York, Church stripped the ball away from the Giants near the goal line, which was recovered by the Cowboys, but the runner had already stepped out of bounds when the ball came loose.
"If they weren't trying, I'd have a problem," Marinelli said. "But they're trying. We work at it every single day. We've had about three or four pop out. One went out of bounds – whatever. Those are the ones we've got to be able to pick up."
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