They come in bunches.
Forcing turnovers, so the thinking goes, tend to happen in swarms by NFL defenses. For Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, the reason for his unit’s increased takeaways is more simple: “We’re catching them.”
“Instead of hitting us in the forehead,” Marinelli said with a chuckle. “We still left three out there. We had a sack and fumble on the third play of the game.”
The Cowboys’ three interceptions last week against the Redskins wasn’t enough for Marinelli, but it’s a good start. Chidobe Awuzie dropped a fourth interception in the end zone and that early fumble was recovered by the Redskins.
In any case, Dallas has five takeaways during its three-game win streak after having only eight in the first eight games. That’s five interceptions in the past three games after just two in the first eight games.
“We just keep believing that they’re going to come,” Marinelli said. “You don’t say, ‘Oh, we’ve got to get them.’ No, we believe they’re going to come. Just keep doing what we do.”
It won’t be easy against the New Orleans Saints, who are tied with the fewest turnovers in the league. The Saints’ Drew Brees has a league-low two interceptions. For Marinelli, it’s never enough. Plus, he added, the defense hasn’t scored since Byron Jones returned an interception 21 yards in the final minute of a win against the Redskins on Oct. 29, 2017. The Cowboys (6-5) host the Saints (10-1) at 7:20 p.m. Thursday at AT&T Stadium.
“Not enough, not enough,” he said. “Last week was getting close. We have to score on defense. We haven’t scored since last year. Elite defenses score.”
Jones said the defense, which has played well the entire season, has kicked it into another gear at the right time.
“Football is weird. Sometimes [turnovers] come in bunches,” he said. “Guys are stepping up and making plays. Guys just understand how to play and do their job.”
Marinelli, who is in his fifth year as the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator, thinks it’s one of his best defenses. That starts with a strong belief in the system by the players. And the faith that the turnovers will come.
“It has to show up on tape. That’s my thing. If it shows up on tape it’s good to have a swagger,” he said. “If it doesn’t show up on tape, it’s just BS. Anybody can say it. Not many people can do it. It starts with how you play, how they hustle to the ball. This front sprints to the football. And we are in shape. They run. And they’re tough guys. And they believe.”