It had been a while since the Dallas Cowboys posted a dominant defensive performance.
Five weeks, in fact, have passed since the Cowboys asserted themselves on defense and held the New York Giants to three points in the season opener.
Part of their struggles can be attributed to rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard, who made his first start Sunday. The Cowboys’ defensive line was ready to pounce.
“Everybody’s got to eat. I eat with all these boys,” said defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who had one of five sacks. “I’m happy to just be in this group. We’re a group of brothers going after one common goal, and that’s the quarterback. We’re just racing to get there and happy for everybody getting after the quarterback today.”
The five sacks were the most in a game since they had six against the Arizona Cardinals on Sept. 25. They had three takeaways (three fumble recoveries) for the first time since last December against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“We rushed together as a team. Everybody was getting sacks left and right, pass deflections, interceptions that got called back,” said David Irving, who had two tackles, including a sack.
Jaylon Smith collected his first-career sack while forcing a fumble on the last play of the third quarter. He punctuated the play with his signature “swipe” fist motion. He did it twice to make sure it didn’t go unnoticed.
“I had to make sure the camera got it,” Smith joked. “It was a great feeling. Whenever you’re able to make a big play to help out the team, that’s what it’s all about. In those type of moments, it reminds you when you were seven years old playing football. It’s definitely a blessing.”
Linebacker Sean Lee had five tackles in his first game back after missing two games with a strained hamstring. His presence in the middle of the field was felt throughout the defense.
“It’s really big. We all played well together as a unit,” Smith said. “It’s something that was on display today for the first time, when everyone was healthy and going.”
Lee was just happy to be back on the field and helping his teammates.
“We’re kind of building some continuity and some momentum. I think this is a good start for us,” he said. “We lost two tough games in a row and we needed to come back and get better, and defensively I think we stepped up.”