|Phillips puts stamp on Cowboys defense with attacking style|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 06 December 2007 02:51|
If they manage to avoid the sack, they're often forced to make errant throws.
That's all part of Wade Phillips' aggressive defensive style, one of the primary factors that drew Jerry Jones to Phillips when the owner was looking for Bill Parcells' replacement last winter.
``He has been everything I would have expected from his technical schemes,'' Jones said this week. ``It's very effective. ... It's significantly different out there defensively.''
The Cowboys are still in the three-man defensive fronts Parcells initiated two years ago for a franchise where the 4-3 defense had always been the standard. But Phillips, the renowned defensive coordinator, instilled a much more aggressive approach.
The results are obvious.
Ellis, the converted end and most tenured Cowboy in his 10th year, has a career-high and team-leading 10 1/2 sacks in nine games since returning from a torn Achilles' tendon. Ware, a Pro Bowl pick last season, has 10 sacks.
It is the first time since Ed ``Too Tall'' Jones and Jim Jeffcoat in 1985 that Dallas has two players with at least 10 sacks the same season. The Cowboys' 33 sacks are one shy of what they had last season with four games left.
They are second in the NFL with 18 interceptions. For the first time since 1996, three Cowboys have at least four - Anthony Henry and Ken Hamlin with five each and Terence Newman with four.
``I really think you've got the talent here, the scheme is good for the talent that you have,'' Ellis said. ``I think now that it's kind of coming to pass.''
More significant than all the stats, the Cowboys (11-1) are off to the best start in franchise history with the NFC's best record. They can clinch their first NFC East title since 1998 with a victory Sunday at Detroit, or a loss by the New York Giants.
``Obviously, with the record we have, the success we are having, I am real pleased,'' Jones said.
Dallas made the playoffs last week by beating Green Bay in a showdown of 10-1 teams. Brett Favre was only 5-for-14 passing for 56 yards with two interceptions before being knocked out of the game by a hard hit from blitzing cornerback Nate Jones in the second quarter.
That was a week after a 34-3 victory over the New York Jets, who didn't cross midfield until the final drive before halftime and didn't get a first down after that until there were 5 minutes left in the game.
Phillips likes what he's seen so far.
``We wanted to get in the top 10 and we wanted to stop the run. Those two things, we've accomplished,'' Phillips said. ``We're pretty good at everything we do. I like our team and I like our defense.''
The Cowboys rank third in the NFC and eighth in the NFL allowing 304 yards per game. They are fourth in the league in rushing defense (86 yards a game).
Ellis is within one of Ware's team record of 11 1/2 sacks by a linebacker set last season. Hamlin's five interceptions are a career high, Newman has matched his and Henry has his most picks since 10 as a rookie with Cleveland in 2001.
Phillips' system seems conducive to career years for players.
``You hope so,'' Phillips said with a chuckle. ``We say that, but I mean, you try to get your best players in position to make plays and then they've got make them.''
Phillips has had to learn how to best use his players while dealing with some significant injuries. Nose tackle Jason Ferguson was lost for the season after getting hurt in the opener, and Ellis and Newman were sidelined early. Henry remains bothered by an ankle sprain.
``Part of it's who can blitz and who can't, and who does this well and that well,'' Phillips said. ``Part of it's them learning the techniques or us trying to fit the techniques that they can do well.''
One result has been four-time Pro Bowl safety Roy Williams and regular linebacker Akin Ayodele not starting the past two games when the Jets and Packers opened in spread offenses.
Williams had started all 90 games of his career before then, but insists he's OK doing ``whatever needs to be done to help the team win.''
Of course, winning makes that easier.
``I understand that. One begets the other,'' Phillips said. ``If you're not winning, they're going to be talking. ... I think they see when you win what the results are. That's what they're all playing for, to win. They want to be certainly a part of it, and not all of them can be every play.''