Dallas Cowboys

Defense responds after Sean Lee rips teammates in first half

Most of the Dallas Cowboys’ talent is on the offensive side of the ball. That is well known.

But that doesn’t mean the defense doesn’t hold itself to high standards and linebacker Sean Lee made that perfectly clear to his defensive teammates in the second quarter on Monday night.

Lee couldn’t have been more frustrated with how the defense started, allowing the Detroit Lions to gash them for 192 yards and 21 points. He reached his boiling point after Lions running back Zach Zenner scored on a 5-yard run midway through the second quarter.

Lee ranted at his teammates that their play had been unacceptable up to that point.

“We’ve played with passion and we’ve played the right way throughout the entire year,” Lee said. “We’ve gotten better every game. That first half wasn’t us. We didn’t play with the right intensity. We weren’t playing assignment football. We weren’t playing the way that has made us successful.

“That’s what I was kind of saying, ‘Hey, this is unacceptable for us to play like this. We have to find a way to get better fast.’”

The message resonated.

The defense pitched a shutout in the second half, holding the Lions to 127 yards in the final half.

Zenner, who had rushed for 64 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries in the first half, had only 3 yards on two carries in the second half.

The defense finished the night with multiple sacks and takeaways for the fourth consecutive game. They sacked Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford four times, and safety J.J. Wilcox had his first interception of the season and defensive end David Irving forced a fumble that the Cowboys recovered.

That’s the type of defense Lee and the Cowboys envision having for a sustained playoff run. But they’re not talented enough to take quarters off, as Lee explained.

“If we take it, use it right and we understand that, ‘Hey, if we don’t play the right way and come out a certain way, we’ll lose,’” Lee said. “When you get in the playoffs, the margin for error is too small to have any quarters like that.”

Drew Davison: 817-390-7760, @drewdavison

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