Kiffin says Cowboys' D needs improvement

September, 11, 2013
9/11/13
7:39
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys' defense forced six turnovers in the season-opening victory over the New York Giants.

That might be the only good thing that happened.

Eli Manning threw for 450 yards and four touchdowns, and the Giants had three receivers who each posted 100-plus yards receiving. After one week, the Cowboys are ranked 30th in the NFL in defense after allowing 478 yards, and they rank last in average yards allowed per play at 9.94.

Yes, the Cowboys won the game, with their defense making some game-saving plays, including Brandon Carr's interception return for a touchdown with 1:50 remaining. Still, it felt like the team could have done better.

"That game’s over with," defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said. "We’ve got to go play. We had the turnovers and all this and that, but we’ve got to play better on defense too. We didn’t play as well as we should’ve. We won the game and we hung on, but we needed to play better. I think just being in the system and getting to learn what the other guy is doing and understanding the scheme and things like that. We’ve just got to keep getting better."

The Cowboys missed two starting defensive linemen due to injuries: defensive end Anthony Spencer and defensive tackle Jay Ratliff. Ratliff is out for five more weeks, at least, recovering from groin and hamstring injuries. Spencer (knee surgery) could return this week after missing the opener.

If Spencer plays, he'll be limited in the number of plays he can log because he missed all of training camp.

Starting cornerback Morris Claiborne, who played in three preseason games last year, missed all of the preseason with a knee injury. But he was ready for the Giants game and suffered a separated left shoulder in the game.

"He’s banged up a little bit," Kiffin said of Claiborne. "He’s trying to tough it out. He really is. You’ve got to respect him for that. There’s no doubt about it. A lot of guys might not have put the pads on, and he put the pads on. That shows us a lot about Mo. He’s trying to do it, but again, he’s definitely banged up."
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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