The Dallas Cowboys rank 32nd in total defense. The 367 first downs they have allowed has set a team record already as has the 6,279 total yards and 4,360 passing yards allowed.
Statistically, they are the worst defense in team history and among the worst in NFL history.
Yet, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones still is convinced the Cowboys did the right thing in switching to the Tampa 2 from the 3-4 alignment before this season.
“I am. This is the system we want to be in going forward,” Jones told the Star-Telegram. “Nothing about this year has discouraged us from this system.”
Jones would not address the future of defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin or any of his coaches, because he said the Cowboys are not looking beyond this week.
He believes the Cowboys’ defense has gotten better and will play well Sunday. The defense had its best effort of the season Oct. 20 against the Eagles, holding Philadelphia to three points and 278 yards as Nick Foles completed only 11 of 29 passes for 80 yards before leaving with a concussion.
“I like where we are this week, what we’re doing in our game plan, and in my mind we’re a better defense,” Jones said. “We’re going to have our personnel that’s going to be on the field have more repetitions [than they have had].”
Middle linebacker Sean Lee doesn’t need surgery, but he won’t be in the lineup for the Cowboys on Sunday. It marks the second consecutive season that Lee has missed a Week 17 elimination game. He finished last season on injured reserve with a toe injury.
“I’m very disappointed obviously,” Lee said Friday. “It’s two years in a row I haven’t been there when the team needed me most. There are some things you can control, and some things you can’t. You have to play the cards you’re dealt and try to stay positive. I’m excited with the guys we have going this week. They’ve done a great job preparing, and I think they’ll be effective.”
Lee hopes the Cowboys win, believing he has a chance to be back next week. Dallas would host a wild-card playoff game with a victory over the Eagles.
This marks the 18th game Lee has missed in his four-year career. He was out two games this season with a hamstring injury, and Sunday marks the third game he has missed with the neck injury.
Lee made a difference in the Cowboys’ victory over the Eagles in October, with 11 tackles, an interception and a pass breakup.
Rookie DeVonte Holloman, who had never played middle linebacker until two weeks ago, replaces Lee in the lineup.
Ware vows to play
DeMarcus Ware quickly walked from the training room to a meeting room, with a stim machine attached to his elbow. He wasn’t in a mood to chat but said the only words he needed to say: “I’m playing.”
The defensive end officially is listed as questionable on the injury report after missing practice Friday with back and elbow injuries. He injured his elbow last season, too, but played through it late last year and avoided off-season surgery.
The Cowboys will be without Lee and quarterback Tony Romo (back). Linebacker Ernie Sims (groin), who hasn’t practiced all week, is doubtful.
The Cowboys will have one thing going for them this week — home-field advantage. AT&T Stadium should have its largest crowd of the season, topping the 92,758 the Cowboys drew for the Denver Broncos on Oct. 6.
“I take some of what we’re getting injury-wise to be able to play this game at home,” Jerry Jones told the Star-Telegram. “Our fans can make a difference in this game. Their enthusiasm can really make the difference. We need a home-field atmosphere if we are counting on [Kyle] Orton and we’re counting on what we are with the team with that home-field atmosphere, and it is going to be. ... We’ve sold everything available. We’ll have them hanging from the rafters. It’ll be one of our biggest crowds.”
The Cowboys have drawn 613,179 this season, an average of 87,597. Their largest crowd ever was the NFL-record 105,121 who saw the regular-season opening of the $1.2 billion stadium in 2009. They also drew 100,621 for the Eagles in a Week 17 game that season.
The Cowboys are 22-17 all time at AT&T Stadium, including 5-2 this season.
“We are going to need our fans,” receiver Dez Bryant said. “We’ve got some of the greatest fans in football. We are going to need them to be loud every third down, make sure they [the Eagles] don’t hear their play. We need them involved in this ballgame.”