Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys’ defense once again lives up to its high standards

Cowboys defensive tackle Maliek Collins sacks Browns quarterback Cody Kessler in the third quarter. The Cowboys had four sacks in Sunday’s 35-10 victory in Cleveland.
Cowboys defensive tackle Maliek Collins sacks Browns quarterback Cody Kessler in the third quarter. The Cowboys had four sacks in Sunday’s 35-10 victory in Cleveland. rmallison@star-telegram.com

As the sacks kept piling up for the Dallas Cowboys during their 35-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday afternoon, the players kept talking about the relentless energy they repeatedly displayed at FirstEnergy Stadium.

For one, Maliek Collins, a 21-year-old rookie defensive tackle out of Nebraska, appeared to be enjoying his finest hour as a Cowboys player more than anybody. Collins picked up two sacks against the Browns and helped the Cowboys win their seventh consecutive game and reach the midway point of the season with a 7-1 record.

“It’s really just me going out there and trying to execute and do my job,’’ said Collins, explaining the success he encountered against the Browns. “Good things happen when you do your job.

“This week I was able to come in there and make a couple of plays for the defense when we needed it.”

Overall, the Cowboys equaled a season-high with four sacks and dropped Browns quarterback Cody Kessler for 26 yards in losses. That gives Dallas 18 sacks this season and 12 sacks over the past four games, including four on Oct. 9 against Cincinnati and three last week against Philadelphia.

“Those [defensive line] guys got a good rush up front, so I’m trying to break containment and break the pocket, and I just went and made a play,” said linebacker Justin Durant, who had one sack. “We expect to hold ourselves to a certain standard.

“Today we played pretty well aside from that drive right before the half which we gave up and let them drive the field and get a touchdown. We played pretty good overall, but it’s a lot of things we’ve got to work on.”

While the Cowboys’ offense has been winning praise, linebacker Damien Wilson said the defense is willing to carry its share of the load.

“We know who we have on offense, we know we have a strong offense,” Wilson said. “We’ve got to help those guys out — they help us out — and we just play together as a team.

“We want to be a threat, and when people come, when we go to play people, we want them to know that, ‘Hey, this is going to be a ballgame, strap it up, it’s going to be highly competitive, and we’re going to give it our best effort.’  The D-line, they’re always working hard and always getting after the quarterback in practice, and it’s just nice to see that pay off.”

The 10 points allowed Sunday were the fewest the Cowboys have allowed this season. Granted, the effort came against the winless Browns (0-9), but the final outcome was nonetheless impressive.

“I just think it starts up front with our D-line,” said linebacker Anthony Hitchens, who was credited with half a sack. “They were getting off the ball, they were getting good pressure, and they kept them in the pocket and made some plays.

“I guarantee there are not too many teams that are working like the way we work at practice every week, and it’s starting to show up. As long as we keep working and keep playing for one another we’ll be all right.”

Since the Cowboys played one of the their top NFC East rivals — Philadelphia — last week, and will play at Pittsburgh next week, the Browns could have been easy to look past. But the Cowboys scored on their first possession for the sixth time in eight games and held the Browns to only 13 first downs and 222 yards. Dallas remains the only team in the league that has not allowed a 100-yard rusher or 100-year receiver this season.

“We are resilient group that likes to play,” linebacker Sean Lee said. “We came in this game ready to go. No matter what the record is we know we have to play a certain way. There is a standard we have to live up to.”

Once again, the Cowboys lived up to that standard Sunday.

Dwain Price: 817-390-7760, @dwainprice

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