Cowboys defense must dominate to win

October, 24, 2012
10/24/12
9:00
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IRVING, Texas -- The first meeting told all you need to know about the Cowboys' defense against the New York Giants.
There were three sacks of Eli Manning, a forced fumble, five quarterback hits, five tackles for loss and two pass breakups.

Manning’s 213 passing yards were his fewest against the Cowboys since 2008.

The Giants were just 4-for-12 on third down. Need any more reason to believe the Cowboys' defense took charge of the Sept. 5 game which they won, 24-17?

The rematch comes Sunday afternoon. The Cowboys -- at least the defensive players -- are not worried about the first game. They’re not worried about the Giants' 3-0 record at Cowboys Stadium.

It seems they’re not worried about anything.

One look at outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware tells you everything. He’s not smiling. He was speaking in direct, even tones about what his defense needs to do.

“We've got to dominate every week on defense,” he said. “It’s not just once a week. You have to be committed in what you do and hold teams to low points, (and) that’s what great defenses do, just go out and get the job done.”

The Cowboys are trying to downplay what a victory like this could mean within the division. A victory over the Giants gives them a 2-0 mark and a season-sweep against the defending champs with four division games remaining.

“It’s no pressure,” defensive end Jason Hatcher said. “We know it’s like this when we play the Giants, it’s going to be a dog fight. It is what it is. We don’t care for each other so it’s going to be one of those games.”

At Carolina, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett asked the defense to finish the victory. He went conservative in his playcalling down the stretch and let Dan Bailey give his team the lead.

Then he allowed the defense to win the game. It didn’t matter if Cam Newton was the quarterback, the defense is being asked to win games now.

““He said, ‘Alright fellas, defense, you guys need to go out there and close the game for us,' and that’s what great defenses do,” Ware said.

Unlike the first meeting, nose tackle Jay Ratliff will participate, as will Josh Brent, who continues to get better each game. The Giants didn’t test rookie corner Morris Claiborne that much in the season opener, but coming off his first game with an interception, Claiborne's confidence should be high.

Of course, cornerback Mike Jenkins will also play in this one, having missed the first game.

Sean Lee, the talented inside linebacker, won't play in the game after a toe injury cost him the rest of the season. It means Bruce Carter and Dan Connor will have to secure things in the middle of the field.

This won’t be easy because the Giants love playing in Arlington.

So do the Cowboys. And on Sunday their defense has to dominate. The unit, regardless of the past, must win this game.
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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