DeMarcus Lawrence has only one sack in nine games and has been managing a balky back in recent weeks. But he ranks as the Dallas Cowboys’ most proven postseason pass rusher.
Lawrence had a sack in each of the Cowboys’ playoff games in 2014 and is looking to make a similar impact for what they hope is an extended playoff run this season.
Lawrence declared himself “great” and “ready to play” after sitting out the final three regular season games. He had to come back from a layoff early this season, too, after being suspended the opening four games for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
“I ain’t going to say I’m all the way to 100. It’s a lot of things I need to clean up and I’m working on it,” Lawrence said. “The main thing is really doing my job to the best of my ability and knowing that I’m better than the guy in front of me and whooping his (butt) each and every play.”
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Does that come with an exclamation point?
“Yep. Three of them,” Lawrence said, grinning.
But Lawrence and the Cowboys understand the challenge of getting quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the ground.
Lawrence and Jeremy Mincey were the only two defensive linemen able to sack Rodgers in the Cowboys’ 26-21 loss in the 2014 divisional round. In that game, Rodgers was hobbled by a calf injury.
“Two sacks wasn’t good enough. Rodgers was hurt and he still beat us,” Lawrence said. “Our main thing is just making sure we keep him in the pocket and winning this game.”
The Cowboys only sacked Rodgers once in their match-up in October, too, with David Irving recording it.
Rodgers has an innate ability to evade pressure and extend plays, something that the Cowboys are well aware of going into this game. Plus, the Packers’ offensive line is among the best pass protection units in the league.
“They’re big,” Cowboys defensive tackle Maliek Collins said. “They do what they do really well. They get a hat on a hat. They move guys out of there. They get their hands on you fast, so you’ve got to be able to defeat those blocks.”
Added defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, “You’ve got to really work. You’ve got to be in great shape, great condition, great discipline to play a guy like [Rodgers] because every play - every play - you cannot let up on a play. This guy is so special. You’re all looking at a first-ballot Hall of Famer. We know what’s in store for us. Now we’ve just got to concern ourselves with us.”