Defenses seek to improve when Cowboys visit Dolphins Print
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Friday, 14 September 2007 13:40
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By SARAH LARIMER
Associated Press Writer
MIAMI (AP) -The Dallas Cowboys gave up 35 points last week and won. The Miami Dolphins allowed only 16, but folded in overtime.
Both defensive units will seek improvement Sunday when the Cowboys play at Miami for the first time in 11 years.
The Cowboys' defense was without three starters for much of their season opener, and it showed as they gave up 438 yards in a 45-35 victory over the New York Giants. It was not the sort of Dallas debut anticipated for head coach Wade Phillips, hired after three seasons as defensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers.
``It's one game, it isn't a season,'' Phillips said. ``At the end of season, we'll see where we are. I'd be surprised if we score 45 points a game and gave up 35 a game. If we did, we'd be 16-0, and that would be nice.''
Miami allowed a 58-yard scoring drive to start overtime and lost at Washington 16-13. The late collapse was all too familiar for the Dolphins, whose defense has a reputation for struggling to protect late leads despite finishing among the NFL leaders statistically each year.
``As bad we played in the second half at Washington, there are lot of things we can get corrected,'' All-Pro end Jason Taylor said. ``I know people are overreacting and talking about how bad we were, and we were pretty bad in the second half. We've got to stop giving up leads late in games.''
The Dolphins failed to protect a third-quarter advantage, gave up 400 yards and allowed Washington to convert seven of 14 third-down situations.
``If we play Washington 10 times, that's the only one they'll win,'' linebacker Joey Porter said. ``We're not going to be in the business of giving games away. That will be the last time we give one away like that.''
But the challenge for the Dolphins' defense will be even stiffer Sunday. Dallas' offense is off to a fast start, and Tony Romo threw for 345 yards and four scores in the opener.
``I watched the end of that game last week,'' Miami defensive tackle Vonnie Holliday said. ``It was a shootout. Every four or five plays, it seemed like someone was scoring. We know the job we have before us to stop these guys.''
The matchup includes two of the league's two biggest trash-talkers: Porter and Dallas receiver Terrell Owens.
``He does his trash-talking in a different type of way,'' Porter said. ``Mine is not to make the media. Mine is strictly personal to the person I'm talking to. It's really confidential. If it leaks out, he told it, not me. Mine is trying to get inside your head - degrade you so I can win the football game. I'm not trying to make a media circus out of it.''
Porter and his teammates on defense say they learned from their mistakes against Washington. They gave up 191 yards rushing, and Porter figures the Cowboys will attack the same way.
``I'm expecting them to run the ball, because obviously we had a little problem with it last week,'' Porter said. ``We're going to try to take the run away from them and see if Romo can be the gunslinger they say he is.''
On the other hand, Romo may attack a secondary missing its best safety, Yeremiah Bell, sidelined in the opener by a season-ending Achilles' tendon injury.
Dallas' defense was short-handed in the first game, too. Cornerback Terence Newman and linebacker Greg Ellis sat out with injuries, but Newman might play against Miami. Nose tackle Jason Ferguson was sidelined for the season in the first quarter with torn biceps.
The injuries may be one reason the Cowboys forced the Giants to punt only twice.
``We gave up a lot of yards,'' cornerback Anthony Henry said. ``Teams are going to look at that. It was a bittersweet win. If we don't get in and correct those things, then it's going to be a problem for us throughout the season.''
The last time Dallas visited Miami was in 1996, when the Cowboys won 29-10. With another victory, they would be 2-0 for the first time since 1999.
The game will be a matchup of Marty Schottenheimer proteges. When he was head coach of the Chargers, Phillips and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron were among his assistants.
Cameron is in his first year as the Dolphins' head coach.
``It's kind of like playing against a real good player,'' Phillips said. ``You realize what they can do, and that's what you worry about.''
 

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