- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas – Rob Ryan swears he hasn’t gone soft and isn't coaching scared.
The Cowboys’ defensive coordinator, a proud member of a blitz-crazed family, has an explanation for his conservative play-calling in last week’s whipping by the Seattle Seahawks. Ryan attributes it to circumstances, not a sudden, stunning change in philosophy.
The Cowboys came with five-plus-man pressures on only six of the 25 times that Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson dropped back to pass. That came a week after the Arizona Cardinals rattled the rookie QB by blitzing more than half the time.
“We never got the same game that the Cardinals did,” Ryan said Friday, the first time he’s met with the media since the loss. “If we did, that kid would have woke up missing.”
Few teams have blitzed less often or more efficiently than the Cowboys this season. Ryan expects the efficiency to continue, but he promises that the Cowboys will be an aggressive, attacking defense over the course of the season.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, opposing quarterbacks have completed six of 12 passes for 45 yards and been sacked four times when the Cowboys blitzed this season. If you judge by passer rating, only the Cardinals (59.2) and Texans (58.9) have blitzed better than the Cowboys (59.4). If you go by ESPN’s QBR formula, the Cowboys (2.9) are the best.
Yet the Cowboys are blitzing on a significantly lower percentage of defensive snaps than they did last season. That’s not an intentional adjustment by Ryan.
“We will pressure their quarterback,” Ryan said. “We do play more three-man front football to go along with it, so the quarterback doesn’t just know we’re just a blitz-a-thon like every junior varsity high school football team. We’re not doing that. We’re going to play the efficient way. We prefer efficiency over stupidity, and we’re going to play it right.
“We do have great pressures. We do know when to pressure, we know how to pressure, we know how to attack protections, and that’s what you see with us. Did you see it last week? Well, no.”
Ryan said the Seahawks only lined up in three-receiver sets 10 times all game, running on eight of those occasions. Seattle spent most of the game in two- and three-tight end formations, pounding away on the ground with Marshawn Lynch, dictating down-and-distance situations in the second half.
“I know everybody was wanting to kill their quarterback,” Ryan said. “Believe me, I was wanting to hit the kid, too. They had a plan that wouldn’t allow us to do it: max protect. Any time people are running the ball downhill on you, it’s hard to do anything else until you get that run stopped. We didn’t do a good enough job, but we’re going to get that run handled. I think we have an excellent front. I know we do.
“We’ll be able to attack people the way we want to attack them.”