Cowboys give, but don't take with minus-7 turnover margin

IRVING -- After new cornerback Brandon Carr had two interceptions of San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers in the second preseason game, the Dallas Cowboys had visions of grandeur. Finally, they believed, they had a defense that would play takeaway.

But it hasn't worked out that way so far.

The Cowboys have only four takeaways -- one interception and three fumble recoveries -- and one of those came on special teams.

Only three NFL teams have fewer forced turnovers. The Oakland Raiders, the Detroit Lions and the Indianapolis Colts -- all of whom, like the Cowboys, have had their open-date week -- have only three.

"I guess it's a personal challenge that each one of us has to accept," Carr said Monday. "You have to challenge yourself to put it upon yourself, within the scheme of our defense, to go out there, and you be the one to make that play; you be the one to make the difference for the defense.

"But at the same time, you have to be smart about it, read your keys, try to remember everything you went over in film, studying what your coaches taught you and just go out there and play."

The Cowboys' offense has turned it over 11 times, contributing to the team's minus-7 turnover margin, which is tied for 30th in the NFL. But it isn't all on Tony Romo, who has thrown eight interceptions and lost two fumbles, and the offense. The Cowboys' defense hasn't done its part in creating turnovers.

"Some of it is luck," safety Danny McCray sad. "Some of it is catching the ball when it comes to you. Other ones are disruptions, getting hands up in the quarterback's face. If you know you're not going to get there, when we're blitzing, just try to get a hand up and get a tipped ball. A lot of the interceptions you see now are receivers reaching back. Some of the [forced turnovers] are just good breaks. But the ones that are, you've still got to capitalize on them and catch them."

The Cowboys had 25 takeaways last season, ranking 16th in the league. They were plus-4 in turnover margin. The San Francisco 49ers, who tied for the league lead with 38 takeaways, were an NFL-best plus-28.

With the additions of Carr in free agency and Morris Claiborne in the draft, Dallas was supposed to be better at forcing turnovers. But linebacker Sean Lee has the only interception, and Barry Church and Victor Butler have fumble recoveries. Orie Lemon has a fumble recovery on special teams.

As McCray pointed out, the Cowboys have seen more runs than passes in two of their three games. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were almost 50-50 with 25 runs and 28 passes. Only the New York Giants, with 32 passes and 19 runs, were pass-happy against the Cowboys after falling behind.

"You work on a lot of different things during the week with drills, and those things have been good for us in the past, and you just have to carry those things to the game," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "But it's a team thing. We talk about that all the time. On offense, ball security is a team thing. It starts with the guys up front, the guys protecting, the guys blocking, certainly the guys who have the ball in their hands. Similarly on defense, if you create havoc for the quarterback, and he has to do things quicker than he wants to do, typically those result in interceptions.

"Again, I watched games over the weekend, and those are the things that show up over and over again in this league."

Charean Williams


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