Salty Defense To The Rescue

more wins and we'll see what happens at the end."

Fair enough. If the first six weeks of this campaign have reminded us of anything, it should be that last week has nothing to do with this week. We're reminded of our favorite words from baseball great Bucky Dent: Just when you think you're out, you're in. And just when you think you're in, you're out.

Ferguson said a mouthful, too when he talked about the need to be strong against the run. Acceptable as the effort was against San Diego's LaDanian Tomlinson and Washington's Clinton Portis the first two weeks, San Francisco didn't scare you running. Oakland did too well. Philadelphia didn't try. The Giants' Tiki Barber was held in check, but the Seahawks and Alexander are another proposition altogether. So let Ferguson tell us about the basic principles of playing the run in the 3-4 scheme.

"(The first thing is) patience," he says. "That's the No. 1 worry. Take care of your man, be patient and wait for the runner to commit. Once the runner commits you can get off your block and make a play, but you can't commit too early. The runner will have cutback lanes and we have to hold our gaps and the people behind us are depending on us to stay there and hold those lanes."

And some of these offenses, as Parcells is also fond of pointing out, aren't willing to cooperate by doing what you want them to do. Maybe they'll deploy three and four wide receivers to make a defense trot out the nickel backs, and then try to run through that.

That makes playing the run in general and tackling in particular especially important for the secondary in the nickel .It's an area in which Dallas has been pretty good, but could be tested this week like it hasn't been yet. Willie Pile, who's become the free safety in the Cowboys' nickel, thinks it's a test Dallas can pass.

"That is also a key," Pile agrees, "but it's the beauty of having a great front seven or a great front six. The D-line can tell the secondary, 'You guys worry about the pass, we can handle the run.' And your linebackers are saying, 'Y'all worry about the pass, we'll handle the run.' Our front seven has been pretty good. They're playing pretty salty right now."

Salty is a good word for it. The Dallas defense certainly needed the seasoning of the first month, and they're liable to have to help the offense spice things up for this midseason roll to continue.

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