Kiffin’s turnover culture pays immediate dividend for Cowboys

Posted Sunday, Sep. 08, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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This is the difference the Dallas Cowboys were hoping for when they switched defensive coordinators.

Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli emphasized forcing turnovers from Day One, something that was lacking from Rob Ryan’s defense. The message has clearly resonated with the team after only one game.

The Cowboys forced six turnovers that turned into 23 points, and that carried them to a season-opening 36-31 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday night.

Dallas has more than a third of its turnover total from last season (16) after the first game. The six turnovers tied a team-high over the last 25 years. They came early and often, too, as the Cowboys forced turnovers on the Giants’ first three possessions.

The offense, however, managed only three points off those first three turnovers. Fortunately for the Cowboys, the final three turnovers resulted in touchdowns.

The second half started similarly to the first half, with the Giants coughing up the ball on their first possession.

New York running back David Wilson lost the ball for the second time on the night when tackle Nick Hayden pried it loose and safety Barry Church scooped it up at the Giants 27-yard line and took it into the end zone.

That put the Cowboys up 20-10, and they made it 27-10 later in the third quarter after another turnover by the Giants. The fifth turnover came on special teams, when the Cowboys caught a lucky bounce on a punt.

Chris Jones’ punt bounced off the turf and took the right hop off Giants corner Trumaine McBride, which made it a live ball. DeVonte Holloman recovered it for the Cowboys.

Two plays later, Tony Romo found Jason Witten for a 4-yard TD pass.

Then, in a one-possession game late in the fourth quarter with the Giants in position to take the lead, cornerback Brandon Carr came through with a pick-six off Eli Manning, returning the interception 49 yards to score and seal the game.

The three second-half turnovers proved to be more beneficial than the three in the first half, but the first three came in remarkably quick fashion.

On the first play of the game, defensive end DeMarcus Ware dropped slightly back into coverage and Manning gift-wrapped an interception into Ware’s chest.

The Cowboys took over on the Giants’ 15-yard-line after that, but managed only a field goal.

On their second offensive drive, the Giants showed some life. Manning and Hakeem Nicks connected on a 57-yard pass play, and Manning and Rueben Randle had a 15-yard completion to set up a first-and-goal from the Cowboys’ 8.

The Giants then handed the ball off to Wilson, who was stripped by Church, with lineman George Selvie jumping on the loose ball. The offense delivered another dud, though, by going three-and-out.

Manning threw another interception on the next drive, overthrowing his target and the ball landing in the hands of Cowboys safety Will Allen. Again, the offense couldn’t capitalize on that opportunity, ending in a Romo interception.

Still, it was quite a feat for the defense to get three turnovers to start the game. The last time that happened in the NFL was in 2005, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened the season with three straight takeaways against the Minnesota Vikings.

The defensive coordinator of the Bucs that year? None other than Kiffin, who also had Marinelli on his staff.

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison

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