IRVING, Texas -- Now that the noted physician, Dr. Jerry Jones, has pronounced Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware ready to return from a quadriceps strain, we should take note of where Sunday’s game will be played: the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
On Dec. 19, 2009, Ware had his most memorable game there.
Six days after he suffered a neck injury against the San Diego Chargers, Ware recorded two sacks of Drew Brees, two forced fumbles and three quarterback pressures. His second forced fumble ended the Saints’ final scoring drive and handed New Orleans its first loss of the season. With the win, the Cowboys ended a two-game losing streak; they won their final three games that season to finish with an 11-5 record.
They have not made the playoffs since.
It was a courageous performance by Ware -- who did not start that game for the first time in his career -- and the rest of the defense fed off his play that night. As he walked into the Superdome, he wasn’t sure he would play. Many inside the organization thought he would sit. He needed to be carted off the field with his head taped to a board less than a week earlier.
But somehow he played and excelled.
When the Cowboys return to New Orleans on Sunday, Jones says that Ware will be on the field again after missing three straight games with a quadriceps strain.
He probably could have returned against the Minnesota Vikings, but the Cowboys did not want to press the issue, knowing they would need Ware in a big way against Brees and the Saints on Sunday.
The Cowboys will need Ware this week the way they needed him in 2009.
He had four sacks in the first six games this year to go with 16 quarterback pressures. With Ware, a defensive line that has been hit with injuries since the first day of training camp will be better. Jason Hatcher, who has seven sacks, will have more room to operate. George Selvie, who has six sacks, will get more room.
Ware has that kind of effect on an offense.
Before the quadriceps injury, Ware had to deal with stinger and back injuries that limited his effectiveness and led some to question whether this is the beginning of the end for the Cowboys’ all-time leader in sacks.
He is 31 and has been named to the Pro Bowl the past seven seasons. If he wants to make it eight in a row, he will need to be the Ware of old, the Ware of 2009 at New Orleans, when everybody was watching him that night inside the Superdome.