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Cowboys secondary defends itself

12/13/2011

IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys defense endured probably its worst game of the season Sunday night versus the New York Giants.

To be more specific, the secondary was beaten up as quarterback Eli Manning threw for 400 yards and wasn't sacked in the comeback victory.

Manning completed 27 passes to eight different players and directed passes toward 10. The Giants used big plays to beat up the secondary, with plays of 64, 47, 24 and 23 yards being among its biggest offensive strikes.

In the fourth quarter, the Cowboys gave up seven passing plays of 10 or more yards and six of 15 or more yards. There was a dropped pass in the end zone by Mario Manningham, who ran past cornerback Terence Newman. After Manningham was by Newman, he raised his hand quickly so Manning could get rid of the ball.

There seems to be communication issues in the back end, and when asked about it, safety Abram Elam and cornerback Mike Jenkins responded with strong words.

"It's within. We know what the cancer is. We just need to stop that ourselves," Jenkins said. "Something we need to point out to ourselves. We know what it is. It's communication; everybody else knows what it is. If you look at the tape and the film, we're all looking at each other with our heads chopped off. Once we get that together, we're going to be alright."

Elam said you can't just blame the secondary for the issues.

The Cowboys pass rush had no sacks against Manning, and while there was some pressure, the veteran quarterback did a nice job of stepping up in the pocket and getting rid of the ball quickly. Based on the Cowboys coaches stats released to reporters on Tuesday afternoon, outside pass rusher DeMarcus Ware wasn't credited with any quarterback pressures for only the second time this season.

Anthony Spencer, the other outside pass rusher, had none. Defensive end Jason Hatcher, who had five the past three weeks, also came up empty versus the Giants.

"The issues is just not the back end. You can highlight the back end and say that's the reason why we're giving up plays but as a defense totally. We just got to play better," Elam said.

Several times during the game the Cowboys secondary players looked confused. On one play, cornerback Alan Ball was covering two receivers while a blitz was called. Linebacker Sean Lee was covering Hakeem Nicks in the slot, when normally a cornerback would be there.

Sometimes a receiver would run past two defenders to wide-open spots on the field.

"You don't know the coverage, and you don't know what's been called," Elam said when asked whether the secondary is the cause for some of the problems. "We know on the defensive side what the issue is. We know what to correct in-house. People on the outside, they see different things and have their own perspective, but we just know together we have to play better as a unit."

Jenkins said maybe the complex scheme from defensive coordinator Rob Ryan needs to be simplified for certain situations. While he did say the scheme is not an issue because the Cowboys have played in various schemes the last few years, players must produce.

"It's communication," Jenkins said. "If you look at the film, we're all not on the same page. Once we get on the same page, we'll be good. As of right now, maybe we need to go back to the basics, maybe that's something we need to address."