Stingy Young Men

It almost sounds like the title to a film starring two up and coming hunks from the Hollywood grist factory. A spin on something you might see starring Mathau and Lemmon. But the real stars of this story are the defenders who play for the Dallas Cowboys.

And yesterday's contest against the Buffalo Bills was a theatrical blockbuster performance worthy of an Oscar.

The Buffalo Bills, led by Drew Bledsoe, came into Texas Stadium on Sunday as a team looking to get back on track. Their road woes were evident, as they had dropped the last three road games to the Kansas City Chiefs, the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins. They faced the Cowboys after their bye week with plenty of time to create a game plan to fix their road ills and show the NFL the fledgling Cowboys are nothing but smoke and mirrors.

The foremost problem for the Bills was the Dallas Cowboy defense ranked first in the league in most statistical categories. Drew Bledsoe, the quarterback for the Bills and former player for Bill Parcells, was harassed all after noon. He totaled 104-yards on 17 of 34 completions. This was completely due to a defense that collapsed the pocket on every passing play and was very stingy about the yardage they surrendered.

"They came out…Especially in the second half, they were just going to come after us and blitz us." Bledsoe commented after the game. "They played man-to-man coverage a ton."

And it's that man-to-man coverage that has this Cowboy team defense standing at the top of the NFL. Veteran Mario Edwards and rookie Terence Newman are the cornerbacks who have been taking away the other teams star receivers. Unlike last year when so much safety help had to be offered because of a drought of talent at cornerback, this team's strength is playing man-up.

"I knew they were going to throw at him more (Eric Moulds), especially when I had him." Terence Newman said. The rookie faced the pro bowl receiver allowing 5 catches for 32-yards. Moulds is another top receiver in a list of the who's who that Newman has effectively taken out of the game.

Newman received his first pass interference penalty Sunday, nine games into his first season while facing the best receiver the opposition has to offer. An accomplishment that seems to be going unnoticed to sports journalists around the league.

Yet the fourth year pro Mario Edwards was tested deep and didn't give up anything of note. "Both of those guys are playing great for us now," LaRoi Glover said. "We know they're going to be solid, and that allows us to blitz like we have been."

And the blitzing is the real difference in this year's team over last. The Cowboys are fearless, sometimes running eight men at Bledsoe and leaving the corners on islands. It is now becoming an every week affair as the Cowboys blitz has stymied first the Washington Redskins and now the Buffalo Bills in two straight weeks. Dat Nguyen, the middle linebacker is another player having a great season. He is playing at a pro bowl level, although name recognition will probably prevent his name being called for the roster in Hawaii.

He led all Dallas players with six tackles and one assist. He has made a believer out of Parcells who favors the big linebackers for his system. Nguyen delivers on both the run and pass defense and seems to be in on every tackle. Late in the first quarter Bledsoe set up to pass. The blitz was on and he stepped up into the pocket. Eric Ogbogu, a rotational defensive end for Dallas broke through and sacked Bledsoe stripping the ball as they went to the ground. LaRoi Glover recovered the ball setting up the Dallas offense on the Bills 24-yard line.

Perhaps the only real threat all day from the Dallas offense came in a 5-play drive, featuring Troy Hambrick on four straight running plays of 3, 10, 6, and 3. A 2-yard pass on a bootleg from Quincy Carter to tight end Dan Campbell capped off the drive.

Ogbogu has 2.5 sacks for the season in limited work. He has nearly tripled his output in sacks for his entire five-year career dating back to his three year stint with the Jets and last year with the Bengals.

Yet the rest of the day all Dallas could muster was a 51-yard field goal in the third period by Billy Cundiff.

Dallas won the field position battle, a constant talking point by Parcells. The Bills were continually pinned inside their twenty to start drives, while the Cowboys normal second half possession started at or near their 50-yard line. "Parcells has been preaching field position since he got here," Darren Woodson said. "That's how he likes to win games."

The Dallas defense held the Bills to 1-yard passing and 1-yard rushing in the second half. A testament to the coaching ability of Parcells and the ability to cover receivers as the team generates pressure with the blitz.

"That was a struggle, "Bill Parcells said after the 10-6 win against the Bills. "Offensively we were not great. But our defense was great." Dallas team defense is now holding opponents to 234.6-yards per game. With a 4.0-yards per play average, they are distancing themselves from the rest of the league.

Another test comes next Sunday night as they again face a former Parcells team coming off of a bye week. Dallas goes into Foxboro to play the AFC East leading New England Patriots led by former Parcell's defensive coordinator Bill Belichick.

Another opportunity for this Cinderella team to show off the best defense in the entire league on a national stage.

All these stingy young men are waiting for is someone to yell, lights, camera, and action.

CowboysHQ Top Stories