The Forgotten Defense of '06

the season in Game 9 to Sean Payton knowing where all the bodies were buried to just plain running out of gas, which former ESPN analyst and Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Michael Irvin the other day seconded the notion raised by Glenn, who said, "I don't know, just didn't have our legs under us. The last half of the season, it seemed like we were tired and our legs weren't quick. Happened the two years I was here. Like everyone was dead tired." 

Glenn even knew his history. He knew the same thing happened before he got here under his guy, Bill Parcells. Why, the Cowboys went 2-3 down the stretch in all four seasons Parcells was head coach, meaning he lost 12 of his 30 games (40 percent) from Game 12 on. 

But this collapse was devastating, and enough so when coupled with the heart-wrenching playoff loss to drive Parcells into retirement, likely unable to cope with the fact he either didn't have the fix-'er-up answers to the defensive free-fall or was too stubborn to change his ways, going down with the ship. 

Listen carefully, and let's not throw these guys under the bus. This was not intended to be a Parcells bash-fest. 

"Maybe our play-calling changed a bit," Newman said. "If the offense is playing well the defense is playing well . . . we got a little conservative, and I think we got less aggressive." 

Then there is this from nose tackle Jason Ferguson, who readily points out Parcells' 3-4 style of defense "doesn't hide you - not a defense that will bail you out of stuff." He means, it's pretty basic. No tricks. Just mano a mano. 

"Why didn't we do this? Why couldn't we help ourselves?" Ferguson said. "We stayed basic, stayed in the same thing and we didn't get it done as players." 

Yeah, but, look, basic was good enough to hold Indianapolis to 14 points - matching its season low; to limit Manning to just two touchdown passes. And that was the Sunday before Thanksgiving - just two games from the defensive quake. 

Well, here is yet another theory. The Colts do what they do, and they don't change for nothing. So it's not as if they came in with some souped up game plan trying to expose the Cowboys defense's weaknesses. Their offensive mindset was the same as that of the Cowboys' defense. 

Yeah, well, leave it to Sean Payton to prove vanilla should not be the flavor of choice 16 consecutive games. See, he knew - and give some credit for that to Gary Gibbs, the one-time Cowboys linebackers coach now the Saints' defensive coordinator - the Cowboys would be in the exact same defense, utilizing the same probability of calls no matter that would be Drew Brees, Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush out there or not. 

Said one keen observer, "The defense's tendencies and formations never really changed." That plays into a smart quarterbacks hands, because if he knows what you're going to be in the majority of the time, he knows exactly what's going to work and what isn't as he approaches the line of scrimmage. Easy pickin's. 

"The big breaking point was Sean Payton," Newman said. "He knew what we do. He knew what we were in." 

Payton also knew that without Greg Ellis mounting a rush from the other side, the Cowboys basically were a one-side pressure team. Ware's side. He also knew the Cowboys' safeties would conservatively play a Cover 2 most of the time. That meant if he got Bush in space to the outside - or hell, even some fullback named Mike Karney - he would cause a dilemma for Ware on his side: Either pick up the guy in the flat or rush the passer. 

If he picked up the guy in the flat, chances are Brees would have the time of day in the pocket because no one else was mounting much of a pass rush. If Ware rushed and the corners were running with the wideouts, their backs to the line of scrimmage, there would be no one capable of covering that receiver, whoever it happened to be, in the flat. That's a lot to ask of an inside linebacker in the 3-4. 

"Forced Ware into too many decisions to rush or drop with formations and plays," Glenn says.  

Plus, as Ferguson said, "Sean knew it, and once he exposed us, everybody went down the same road. They knew we would be solid on the run, so they starting running more play-action passes because we wanted to play run so

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