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Wednesday, November 3, 2010
D(efense) missing in Big D

By Russell Baxter

There has been a lot of talk about dismissing Dallas Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips with the team at 1-6 and a playoff spot looking less and less likely each week. But the likelihood of that is complicated by the fact that he's also the team's defensive coordinator. However, while last year his defensive play-calling was key to the Cowboys 11-5 season, this year its a different story. Dallas has allowed 187 points (26.7 PPG) and 20 offensive TD in 7 games this season, a year after giving up 250 points (15.6 PPG) - second-fewest in the NFL in ’09 - and 26 offensive TD in 16 games.

Other food for thought
•  The Oakland Raiders have been one of the biggest surprises of the 2010 season, sitting in second place in the AFC West and at 4-4 are .500 or better at midseason for the first time since 2002, when they started 4-4 and went to the Super Bowl. The Silver-and-Black finally seem to have a game plan this season and are sticking with it. In each of their eight games, they’ve run the ball at least 25 times and totaled at least 100 yards on the ground. This run-first tendency also seems to be having a positive impact the team's offense. After scoring 92 points the last 2 games and 212 points this season, Tom Cable's team has already topped its paltry scoring output from 2009 (197).

• The good news for the San Diego Chargers was a 33-25 win over Tennessee. The bad news was the continuous Keystone Kops act on special teams. Norv Turner’s club, ranked No. 1 in the NFL in both total offense and total defense had another punt blocked for a safety and botched an extra-point attempt in the victory. There have been nine punts blocked this season, and Chargers’ punter Mike Scifres has had four blocked.

• The Pittsburgh Steelers had their share of issues in the fourth quarter last season. Despite their defensive brilliance, they still have some questions to answer late in games. While the situations are varied, it's interesting to note that Pittsburgh has given up just 102 points and eight offensive touchdowns in seven games, but 49 points and six of those touchdowns have come in the final quarter.