Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys DC Rod Marinelli's unit of fighters got it done in red zone

Cowboys safety Barry Church (42) intercepted Kirk Cousins in the end zone in the fourth quarter.
Cowboys safety Barry Church (42) intercepted Kirk Cousins in the end zone in the fourth quarter. Special to the Star-Telegram

-- Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is not about to praise his unit for what they did in the middle of the field in the 27-23 victory against the Redskins.

He knows they gave up too many big plays and too many yards.

But Marinelli said the character of the unit showed through in the second half when it came up strong on the final three drives in the red zone.

The Cowboys held the Redskins to field on the first two drives and then got an interception in the end zone when safety Barry Church stepped in front of a pass from Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins.

And that was before the Cowboys turned the Redskins away on two final drives in the fourth quarter, including a 4th and 1 pass deflection from linebacker Justin Durant.

“Something we did well today. We played really good red zone defense,” Marinelli said. “In between the 30 and 30, I don’t know how good it was. But when we got down tight I thought we did a solid job. Inside the red zone when it counted, we made some plays down there. Then the last two stops of the game were big. It was something we had not done a great job at. We finished today.”

Cousins completed 28 of 46 passes for 364 yards with one touchdown and an interception. He also missed two wide open receivers for would-be touchdowns. 11 different players caught passes, while the Redskins hit on several big plays, including shots of 57, 38, 32, 28 and 25 yards.

But four of six trips into the red zone by the Redskins resulted in three field goals and one interception.

“We just gave up some big plays,” Marinelli said. “We can’t do that. If you don’t panic and just keep playing, usually the offense will self destruct. If you just don’t give up the home run and make them keep punching.”

Marinelli says he is proud of the way his unit responded after giving up the big plays. He says it’s a testament to their character and the good guys the Cowboys have on the team.

Marinelli says he doesn’t know how good unit can because of the team’s obvious challenges to rush the passer without suspended defensive ends Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence.

But he knows they will continue to get better and keep fighting because good guys don’t quit in the face of adversity, as evidenced on Sunday.

“That’s the part I was very proud of,” Marinelli said. “They play down in and down out as hard as they could. They play hard. These guys are really good guys. And really good guys get better as the season goes. I don’t know what the ceiling is but I know they are going to work on it. Good guys don’t give up. They just keep playing. We got to build off of this.”

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