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Cowboys’ oft-maligned defense gaining respect

Owner Jerry Jones can’t even claim he saw this coming. He’s the one, after all, who predicted in the preseason that the Dallas Cowboys’ defense would be better because it couldn’t be any worse.

This just in: The Cowboys’ defense is better because it is better.

“Of course, after we lost Sean Lee, it looked like we were going to be challenged on top of the fact that we lost [DeMarcus] Ware, and we lost key players like [Jason] Hatcher,” Jones said Sunday after his team’s 30-23 victory over the Seahawks. “… But that defense certainly deserves every part of this victory that anybody wants to give them.”

The Cowboys beat the Seahawks at their own game, playing tough, physical football. Seattle had only nine first downs, 206 yards and went 5 for 13 on third down.

Marshawn Lynch gained only 61 rushing yards, and Russell Wilson ran for only 12 yards and threw for only 126. Wilson, who had only one home loss in his career before Sunday, threw a game-ending interception to Rolando McClain and had a 47.6 passer rating.

“I mean, we are good,” Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick said.

Seattle scored 23 points, but the Cowboys’ defense should take blame for only three of the points. The Seahawks scored seven points on a blocked punt returned for a touchdown. Three other Seahawks’ scoring drives, resulting in 13 points, covered 14, 5 and 12 yards. Two followed Cowboys turnovers, and on another, the Seahawks got a short field after the Cowboys’ offense went three-and-out deep in its own territory.

“We stood up on defense,” Scandrick said. “They got 17 points off turnovers. There was no watching. There was playing. That is the team we are. We are going to run it at you, and we are going to be physical. That is how Seattle wins football games.”

Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, the defensive line coach last year, not only has his unit believing, but the rest of the team believing in them. The Cowboys lost the turnover battle 2-1, but they won the game because of their defense, something they wouldn’t have done last year.

“They were outstanding,” quarterback Tony Romo said. “… We were better offensively than previous years last year, and we had the ability to do some things, and I think our defense just needed to take that same step that we were kind of making. They’re doing that this year, and they’re doing the things that are needed. I’m trusting them throughout football games to get us the ball back in key situations, and they’re really playing outstanding ball. They’re fast. They’re aggressive.

“They’re starting to make a name for themselves, and I’m excited about that. It gives us a chance to win every week we go out.”

The defense’s performance Sunday was what the pragmatic Marinelli expected. Nothing more; nothing less.

“I thought we really played hard, and we were very physical,” Marinelli said. “That was our plan: How hard and how tough we could be. That’s kind of our calling card, I think, is our toughness. We have a bunch of tough guys that really play hard, and they’re really trying to do everything they can to do things right. Our secondary, Jerome [Henderson] has done a great job with those guys in terms of man coverage. Oh, man, I mean, we’ve got guys who can cover.”

Appropriately, the defense iced the game with McClain’s interception of Wilson with 42 seconds remaining.

“Great play,” said McClain, who played with a groin injury. “I didn’t think he was going to throw it, but it was a good play.”

Good play. Good game. Good night.

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