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Monday, December 23, 2013
Defense responds at right times

By Calvin Watkins

LANDOVER, Md. -- The defense didn't allow 100 rushing yards or watch a quarterback throw for more than 400 yards. It wasn't the best defensive effort of the season, but the Cowboys did enough to survive in beating the Washington Redskins, 24-23, on Sunday afternoon.

"The players worked their tail off," defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said. "They came back from tough losses and keep their heads up. They never gave up. They didn’t give up in practice. I said these guys won’t give up. They did it all week in practice. You can come in Wednesday with your heads down and this and that. They kept their heads up and fought through it and went work and it paid off. You’ve got to pay the dues. You can’t throw in the towel. We’re really proud. Our staff has stuck together all year long. The players have stuck together. And it paid off. We’ve just got to keep it going."

In the past two weeks, the Cowboys' defense gave up 37 points, including 34 in the second half to the Green Bay Packers in a loss, and 49 to the Chicago Bears in a Monday night defeat.

The confidence level of the defense received a hit when linebackers Sean Lee and Ernie Sims went down with injuries and cornerback Morris Claiborne's return from injury was halted due to the death of his father.

But against the Redskins, cornerback Orlando Scandrick took over for Brandon Carr and covered Pierre Garcon (11 catches for 144 yards) in the fourth quarter. Scandrick knocked a pass away on a third down pass to Garcon on the next to last drive of the game.

The pass rush, disappearing the past few weeks, was able to get some pressure on Kirk Cousins with three quarterback hurries and a few rushed throws. DeMarcus Ware, who has one sack the past four weeks, came up empty Sunday, however he did get a quarterback hurry and he tackled Cousins when he tried to scoot up the field on a draw play.

Pressure was mounting on a defense that's allowed its last two opponents to get over 400 total yards and failed to get off the field on third-down plays. The Redskins converted 44 percent of their third-down plays; it was the first time the Cowboys held an opponent under 50 percent on third down since Nov. 24 at the New York Giants.

On the final possession of the game, the defense was able to get Cousins to throw four incompletions, including a final throw that sailed high and out of bounds on fourth down.

"I wouldn't say pressure, we just had a sense of urgency about ourselves," defensive tackle Jason Hatcher said. "We just played with a lot of new guys back there and we knew what was at stake, we had to win this one, and we scratched and clawed. We made a lot of mistakes but we played full speed and we played for each other so I'm just excited for Philadelphia."