“They are definitely our thermostat.”
Backup quarterback Cooper Rush’s poise and 95.9 passer rating is a major factor in the Cowboys’ 3-1 start and three-game win streak during quarterback Dak Prescott’s three-game injury absence (thumb). But Rush pointed to the defense as the catalyst for the team’s collective success.
“They are the reason we win,” Rush said. “…As a violation, knowing they support you like that is huge.”
Despite their strong start, the defense believes they can reach another level.
“I think we really have a chance to be the best defensive team in this league,” said linebacker Micah Parsons. “The way we prepare and the way we calculate, the players we have — everybody here is hungry, and I think that’s been key. … That’s the kind of default and (we’re) hungry Every week we’ve got to (keep) getting better. Every step we have to keep improving.”
McCarthy Monday identified two ways the offense can continue to improve: defense and takeaways.
The Cowboys are currently in 27th place by run, with 137.5 yards per game. Washington piled up 142 yards on 27 carries on Sunday in a clear attempt to balance the offense for quarterback Carson Wentz, who was sacked nine times by the Philadelphia Eagles in week three.
The commanders had trouble sustaining and completing drives, but they were only able to convert 5 of the 15 third downs. And Wentz (25-of-42, 170 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions) was still fired twice and hit 11 times.
“If you look at the four games we’ve played in, there are clearly people challenging our run defense because frankly they probably don’t want to deal with our pass rush on third and fifth or more,” said McCarthy. “We just have to really stay focused on our running defense. I think that’s going to be our biggest challenge going forward. If I were playing against our defense, I would. The better we play in first and second place down goes down of course. playing in our strength in third place.”
The Cowboys got those two takeaways against Washington — interceptions by cornerbacks Trevon Diggs and DaRon Bland — taking their season tally to four, one month after the regular season for third-fewer in the league.
It’s still early days and Dallas led the league in forcing sales last year (34). Perhaps Sunday was a sign of things to come.
“There’s a standard that’s been set, and we just want to stay behind it,” McCarthy said.
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