Return Of Veteran Corner Juices Defense

and no touchdowns - 47 of those yards when Newman got caught looking inside on Holmes' catch in Pittsburgh.

With Newman locking up on three of the five teams' best receivers, the Cowboys began playing more aggressively on defense. They started to trust Scandrick more in man defense on the slot receiver in those sub-packages, and he did a number on Pittsburgh's Hines Ward, limiting him to one catch for two yards.

Then they started to blitz more, sending mostly the linebackers in their sub-packages, Bradie James and Kevin Burnett. Consequently, the Cowboys have rung up 27 sacks in those five games, an average of 5.4 a game. James has three during that span, as many as he had over the first nine games. Greg Ellis has awoken, notching four sacks in the five games.

And how good has DeMarcus Ware been? The NFL's leader, now just four sacks away from breaking Michael Strahan's NFL record of 22.5 set in 2001 with two games left to play, has bagged nine of his league-leading 19 in these five games.

"You can just do more things (on defense)," Thomas said since Newman has the ability to take on the opponent's top receiver. "You can man up."

Several of Sunday's eight sacks of Eli Manning came thanks to coverage. Manning just had nowhere to go with the ball. And to think, Manning had been sacked just 15 times this season going into Sunday's game. Now he's been sacked 23 times, and more than half of those (12) belong to the Cowboys in two games.

"That's what we felt like we would do this year when we added the cornerbacks we did," Phillips said of playing the amount of man the Cowboys have been playing, "just utilize their speed and coverage ability."

Well, those best laid plans went up in smoke when Newman first missed all of training camp and then the first game. Knowing he played the next three still hurting, the Cowboys were conservative on defense, not asking Newman to man up all that much. And worse, Newman would then miss the next five games, so six of the first nine, when surgery was deemed necessary to repair his sports hernia.

Worse still, three of those five games Newman missed coincided with Pacman Jones' six-game suspension, meaning the Cowboys were playing without two of their top three cornerbacks, thrusting rookie Mike Jenkins into a starting role while the fellow rookie Scandrick already was out there on the sub-packages.

"A lot depends on the players you have," Phillips said of just how aggressively you call your defense.

Well, they have been mighty aggressive of late, and then there also is this factor: The better pass rush you have, the more people offenses keep in to block, which means less guys to cover in the pass pattern and also fewer options for the quarterback to choose from.

Then there is stuffing the run on a more consistent basis, Thomas saying, "Guys are getting better knowing where everybody's at in the running game. Just do your job and not press."

For example: Of the 15 third downs the Giants faced in the game (there were two penalties), 10 of those were at least third-and-seven and eight were at least third-and-10, meaning the Giants weren't doing a good job of running the ball. Their 72 yards rushing against the Cowboys were their fewest in 14 games.

And that played right into the Cowboys defensive hands, especially with their best hand in the secondary, Newman, once again playing at a high, indispensable level - and a good thing, too, since he decided on Friday morning, with gales of drama swirling at The Ranch, to suggest everyone around here needs to be "accountable," and he included the coaching staff in that net he threw around the place.

"He is a versatile guy, and a guy we can put man-to-man on speed receivers," Phillips said. "We found out what he could do against really good people, and we put him on them - and challenged him to do that."

And T-New has met that challenge, enabling this defense to enjoy a coming out party this past month of the season.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.