Rushing To The Defense

disciplined in what they do, and you have to be very disciplined to negate what they do," Canty said. "If you get one guy out of position, that's when they get you. You stop 'em, you stop 'em, you stop 'em, then they hit a big one. You stop 'em, you stop 'em, you stop 'em, and boom, they play-action and then throw it deep. 

"Everything comes off their running game." 

Many of these Cowboys should remember just that. They stopped 'em and stopped 'em and stopped 'em in that Thanksgiving Day game of '05, holding the Broncos to just 89 yards rushing over four quarters. But in overtime, boom, Ron Dayne busts loose for 55 yards to set up the game-winning field goal in a 24-21 Cowboys' heart-breaking loss. 

So how great has this been and will be, for the Cowboys not only to have four practices against these rushing Broncos, but also to play against them in the second of four preseason games? 

Because, while this defensive scheme against the pass is different than what the Cowboys are used to playing under Bill Parcells, it's equally different against the run. Now you've heard this before, but instead of playing a two-gap defense against the run, where the defensive linemen are responsible for neutralizing the guy in front of them and the gap on each side of them - thus two-gap - this defense is all about filling the gaps. 

That means the defensive call dictates which gap the three defensive linemen fire into and which gap the two inside linebackers occupy. And as you've been told, this also means a gap responsibility for the strong safety, who is needed down in the box more times than not to fill that leftover gap. 

Sounds great, right? 

There's a rub. 

"In this defense, you have less leeway to make a mistake," Canty admits. "In the 3-4 (from last year), you stack 'em up, and because we were two-gapping you could kind of bail out one of your partners if something happened and kind of help a guy out. But in this defense there is no helping out in the run game but it speeds us up in the pass game." 

Canty means two things by that. First, that everyone is firing into a predetermined gap, and if you mess up your assignment and fire into the wrong gap, I can't bail you out because I've already fired into my gap. 

But, since everyone is on the move in this defense, attacking the line of scrimmage, it's easier for the defensive linemen to transition from run defense to pass rush once they determine it's a pass. You just keep going. 

"Everybody's got to be where they're supposed to be," Spears emphasized. 

Or as James says, "Everybody has to get in their gap, because if someone is out of their gap, we might get gashed." 

As Bill was known to say, that right there is the other side of that pancake. While all the pressure might be nice, but make one mistake and they are hanging seven on you in a hurry. 

So the big plays go both ways. Sort of like some of those mutual funds, right? Higher the reward, higher the risk. 

Now defensive coordinator Brian Stewart said the Cowboys will be playing a pretty basic defense Saturday night against the Broncos, but that this would be good, they would be able to see just how well the guys are understanding and playing that base defense. 

But let's just not forget, with everyone so jazzed about increased pressure in the passing game, that you still have to play run defense in this league, and you better be darn good at it 

"You can talk about pressure, you talk about attacking, but first and foremost you are not going to be able to attack the quarterback if you can't stop the run," Canty said. "It's hard to pass rush on second-and-2 and third-and-1." 

Because they do run the football in the NFL . . . still.     

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