Next pass Cowboys intercept will be 1st of season Print
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Thursday, 02 October 2008 12:57
NFL Headline News

 IRVING, Texas (AP) -One by one, the Dallas Cowboys defensive backs went through the drill - backpedaling, sliding right toward the sideline, then breaking in on the ball and catching it.
Only one thing was missing. The ball.
How appropriate.
Dallas and Detroit are the only defenses without an interception this season. And the Lions have the excuse of playing one less game.
Wait, it gets worse for the Cowboys. Add in the interception-free performance in last season's finale and they're in a five-game slump, matching the worst drought in franchise history, according to Stats, LLC. The only other time it happened was Weeks 2-6 of the 1990 season, Jimmy Johnson's second season.
This rough patch is not exactly what Jerry Jones was expecting when he gave lucrative new contracts to Pro Bowlers Terence Newman and Ken Hamlin, spent a first-round pick on Mike Jenkins and brought in Adam ``Pacman'' Jones.
`It's just one of those years for some reason,'' secondary coach Dave Campo said Thursday.
Campo's answer is borne from frustration. See, Dallas seems to have all the pieces in place, everything but the results.
The Cowboys are getting good pressure up front, which means quarterbacks know they don't have much time to pick a target and lock in on it. And the quarterbacks they've faced have thrown a total of 12 interceptions this season, so it's not like they're always accurate.
Plus, Dallas is playing more zone coverage than man-to-man, the scheme that's more conducive to pickoffs.
Yet with all their proven playmakers - returning the guys who made 18 of last season's 19 interceptions - you'd think at least one of the 131 passes thrown against the Cowboys this season would have wound up in their hands.
But, to Campo's lament, he can't even find many would-be interceptions that were dropped or tipped balls that could've been picked off.
``All I can tell you is, it's a matter of time,'' Campo said. ``We just got to keep grinding and keep playing as good as we can play.''
Help could be on the way Sunday, wearing the orange and black of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Carson Palmer has three interceptions in three games and backup Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three more in his lone start. Whoever hurls 'em, the odds might finally be in Dallas' favor.
Jones, who blames himself for a drop in the opener, even though it was his first NFL game since Dec. 31, 2006. ``We'll be all right. ... We've got to get around the ball a little bit more.''
Maybe injuries are part of the problem.
Newman missed all preseason and the opener with a groin injury. He's certainly not back to his Pro Bowl form judging by the way Washington picked on him Sunday (two short touchdown throws, plus a 53-yarder).
Strong safety Roy Williams broke an arm in the second game and his replacement, Pat Watkins, has been in and out of the lineup with injuries. He's likely to be out Sunday, with special teams ace Keith Davis starting and second-year man Courtney Davis seeing extended action.
``I was messing with the guys today, telling them, `You know, if they put me on the field, I'm going to go ahead and get y'all off this interception streak,''' Davis said. ``We laugh about it and have fun about it, but guys want to get their hands on the ball, no question about it. It's difficult to do, but once we get that first one, it opens the gate. Balls just start landing in your lap after that.''
The slump wasn't as noticeable the first three games because Dallas won all three. It's gotten more attention now that the Cowboys are coming off a loss to Washington, especially since the Redskins threw two touchdown passes in a 26-24 victory.
sheet, Campo notes that there are nine teams with only one interception. Dallas could practically jump to the middle of the pack with three or four against Cincinnati.
Maybe the Cowboys are just due for a breakthrough. Remember, they have been working on it in practice - that football-free drill included.
The main focus was footwork. Campo figures that without a ball in the air, players can concentrate on making each step properly. They can visualize the interception part.
``I wanted them to break without looking for the ball, get back to the receiver before they pick the football up,'' he said.
And, another thing ...
``I can't throw,'' he said, laughing.
 

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