Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys defense doesn’t like ‘bend-but-don’t-break’ label

Rod Marinelli isn’t fond of ‘bend-but-don’t-break’ label for his defense.
Rod Marinelli isn’t fond of ‘bend-but-don’t-break’ label for his defense. mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

The Dallas Cowboys defensive room isn’t fond of being known as a ‘bend-but-don’t-break’ unit.

It’s a term associated with them because, well, they bend-but-don’t-break. It’s a defense that gives up plenty of yards and big plays, but somehow forces teams to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns.

It’s a unit that doesn’t pile up the sacks or takeaways, instead gets the timely tackle or pass breakup on third down.

The Cowboys rank 21st in total defense right now and their struggles in the pass rush (20 sacks to date) and takeaways (15) have been well-documented. They have the third-best run defense and the 31st-ranked pass defense. In the red zone, opponents have converted 56.1 percent of those trips into touchdowns against the Cowboys.

For defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford, though, a more fitting title would be a ‘don’t break’ defense.

“That’s just something that’s a popular term in NFL football, bend-but-don’t-break defenses,” Crawford said. “I don’t see us like that. I feel like we’ve done a really good job this year. … I feel we’ve done a good job most part of the year of just being a ‘don’t break’ defense.”

Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli also doesn’t buy into the Cowboys being a ‘bend-but-don’t-break’ team, calling it “other people’s phrases.”

“I say we play aggressive, fast football,” Marinelli said. “And we try to execute. The whole system is being about when people do drive the ball, you’ve got to force them into mistakes. You can’t let them get in the end zone. If they do, it’s through your goal-line defense.”