NFC Playoffs Q&A: Jay Ratliff

Dallas Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff felt honored to be named to his second Pro Bowl this week, but right now he's focused on an even bigger goal. He talked with's Ed Thompson about Dallas' pursuit of a Super Bowl championship as the Cowboys prepare for the Minnesota Vikings.

Ed Thompson: You finished second on the team in sacks, and that's not an easy task working inside out of a 3-4. What is it about the way you approach the position that has helped make you so successful?

Jay Ratliff: I don't think about sacks, I don't think about pressure. I just try to focus on my technique and on playing with good intensity. That's all I ask of myself.

Thompson: Over the past four seasons you've forced three fumbles but recovered ten, including four this season. You definitely have a knack for coming up with a loose ball.

Ratliff: Oh yeah, wherever the ball is on the field, you definitely want to be there--and I try to do that. When the ball is 80 yards down field and you can show up in the picture on film, that's what I try to do.

During the last two seasons, Ratliff has logged 13.5 sacks, 13 stuffs and five fumble recoveries.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Thompson: The Cowboys head into Minnesota with a lot of momentum. What's the mood of the team been like as you've been preparing for this matchup?

Ratliff: The mood has been very focused and calm the last few weeks. We know what we have to do, we know what to do. There's not a lot of talking. In the locker room, we don't talk about football. We just enjoy each other, enjoy the camaraderie, and then on Sunday we go out there and perform.

Thompson: Your defense finished the regular season ranked second in points allowed and first in allowing the fewest number of drives to reach the red zone. As you've played alongside this talented group, what would you say are some of the main reasons you've clicked as a unit?

Ratliff: We don't have any selfish players. No one cares who gets the credit, no one cares who makes the plays. We all care for one another, we like the people we play next to. Everyone goes out there with the attitude that they're going to do their job.

Thompson: Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is converting 59 percent of his third-down runs. When you watch him on film running inside the tackles, what are you noticing about him as a runner?

Ratliff: Well, one thing I know is he certainly doesn't tip-toe through there (laughs). He doesn't slow down, he's going full-steam ahead. When you try to tackle him, you've got to get your body on him--I don't think anyone's going to want to try to arm-tackle this guy. We're going to get in our gaps. And once one guy is able to grab him, you better believe that we're going to have two more guys coming, too. That's what we're going to have to do. 

Thompson: He's also averaging better than ten yards after the catch. So he's a guy your linebackers have to keep a close eye on when he tries to slip out of the backfield.

Ratliff: That's true. We're going to have to stay disciplined and keep an eye on him and always be aware of where he is. He's a special player. He can make things happen, so we've got to do our best to contain him.

Thompson: Brett Favre's completion rate drops from 71 percent to 62 percent when he's under the pressure of a blitz. Undoubtedly, you've got a great opportunity to disrupt Minnesota's passing game with the way you guys bring the pressure.

Ratliff: We're pretty confident about bringing pressure, that's one thing we all take pride in is pass rushing. But the main thing is that we've got to stop the run first, that's our main focus right now. So if we can find the ways to stop Adrian Peterson, I think the rest will take care of itself and we'll be all right.

Thompson: Marion Barber returned for some light practice on Thursday. Talk about the impact he has on your team both from a talent and morale perspective.

Ratliff: We were happy to see that. Marion has a great spirit and he's a powerful runner in between the tackles--he's going to break two or three tackles before he goes down. As defensive players, that's what we love to see. When he's able to get six or seven yards on a run and keep drives going, it helps keep the defense fresh.

Thompson: I know you're focused on earning a Super Bowl ring right now, but I wanted to congratulate you on your second Pro Bowl nomination.

Ratliff: Thank you very much. It's a blessing, I worked hard and it's nice to get back there. But as far as my goals and accomplishments for this season go, there's one more thing I've got to do (laughs).

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A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the network and at

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