Upon Further Review: Defense shines


The Dallas Cowboys moved to 1-1 with a commanding 26-10 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday afternoon.

After every game we take a look back in Upon Further Review.

1. After training camp there were plenty of concerns about the defense from its pass rush to secondary play. Losing Sean Lee at middle linebacker was also a major blow to a defense that ranked last in 2013. Two weeks into the season, the defense is doing just fine. In the victory over the Titans, safety Barry Church had a pick, linebacker Rolando McClain also had one, Morris Claiborne almost picked one off and corners, Sterling Moore and Brandon Carr had strong performances. Moore knocked down several passes and Carr did a solid job in one-on-one coverage. The pass rush also got to Jake Locker numerous times and the Cowboys defense was on point. The unit was more physical this week and the increased snaps for defensive tackle Henry Melton helped. There was even a Kyle Wilber sighting as he obtained half a sack on a bull rush move.

2. Melton didn’t start against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1, but in Week 2 he became a starter and showed the Cowboys’ coaches why he was worth signing in free agency. Melton’s tipped pass led to a McClain interception and he picked up a half-sack when he flushed Locker out of the pocket. Melton, using the three-technique along the defensive line, was able to push the pocket and he didn’t face a lot of double-teams. That might change this week when the Cowboys take on the St. Louis Rams.

3. DeMarco Murray was fantastic on Sunday. He rushed for 167 yards on 29 carries with one touchdown. Murray broke 11 tackles and despite a fumble for the second consecutive week, was able to brush it aside and run with a fury downfield. Murray has adopted the one-cut technique from position coach Gary Brown. In years past, Brown noticed the Cowboys’ running backs were doing too much dancing when they got to the hole, so Brown told the backs to get what they can. If the hole dictated one or two yards, so be it. Murray isn’t afraid to get just one or two yards, however, the offensive line is getting a good push into the second level of the defense, allowing him to make that one-cut and get up field.

4. Last week, left tackle Tyron Smith played a solid game though he allowed one sack and was penalized twice. Right tackle Doug Free gave up two sacks in the first half and looked over matched. As the game progressed, the veteran took over and handled outside linebacker Derrick Morgan and defensive end Ropati Pitoitua one-on-one with little trouble. There were times he had tight end Jason Witten lined up with him, but Free was able to produce a strong effort overall.

5. One of the biggest plays of the game came from Witten. With Dallas leading 16-10 late in the third quarter, Tony Romo floated a pass into the flat over a leaping defensive tackle Jurrell Casey. The pass was too high for Witten to haul in and safety Bernard Pollard caught the ball. Witten had the presence of mind to strip Pollard and force an incompletion. If Pollard maintains control of the ball he probably gets a pick-six and the Titans take the lead.