The Dallas Cowboys defense is suddenly getting run over.
Rob Ryan’s group was the league’s top rushing defense only two weeks ago. Then LeSean McCoy of Philadelphia ran for a career-high 185 yards against them and Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch followed with his first 100-yard game in nearly three years.
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”When you’re doing well and you don’t give up 100 yards, then you do, you have to pay attention to that,” linebacker Bradie James said. ”We have to definitely concentrate on that and try to fix it.”
After allowing only 418 rushing yards the first six games, the Cowboys have allowed 401 the last two — both coming when Dallas lost leading tackler Sean Lee, who dislocated his left wrist at Philadelphia and then missed the Seattle game.
Maybe they just had a couple of bad games.
”Things that are fixable,” linebacker Anthony Spencer said after watching film. ”That’s probably the positive thing about it is because the things we are messing up on can be corrected.”
Dallas has gone from allowing only 70 yards rushing per game to 100, now 10th in the NFL.
”We didn’t go from 1 to 32. So, we’ll be fine,” James said.
Coach Jason Garrett believes the Cowboys (4-4) just have to improve their execution.
”There have been some plays that teams have run against us, but we’ve defended those runs throughout the year as well. It’s not the first time we’ve seen that,” Garrett said. ”The thing that makes us feel good is we’ve defended the run really well for a large portion of the season. We’ve just got to get back to doing that.”
And fast, with Buffalo (5-3) and Fred Jackson, the NFL’s third-leading rusher, heading to town Sunday.
Jackson already has five 100-yard rushing games this season, and his 803 yards trail only McCoy (825) and Chicago’s Matt Forte (805).
”The best rusher in the game right now, Action Jackson,” James said. ”He’s mobile. … He’s the real deal. He’s a full package. We have our work cut out for us because we’ve given up a couple of 100-yard rushing games, so we’ve got to hone in on what we need to do defensively. We have to stop the run to give us a chance to win.”
Jackson also has 30 catches for 391 yards, and is the first Buffalo player since Thurman Thomas with 1,100 yards from scrimmage in the first eight games of a season.
”He’s really explosive,” Spencer said. ”Whenever he has the ball in his hands, he’s a threat of scoring. We’ve definitely got to keep him under wraps.”
This is also trip home for Jackson, who went to high school in Arlington and grew up in a neighborhood that is no longer there. The area is where Cowboys Stadium now stands.
”It was a lot of fun. We were young kids playing football out in the middle of the street,” Jackson said. ”It’s a completely different place than what I grew up in. So it will be a lot of fun to get back.”
Jackson has been back since Cowboys Stadium was built, and last February he got tickets for the Super Bowl there for his parents, who still live nearby.
Lee, who is also the Cowboys’ leader in interceptions and fumble recoveries, practiced Thursday for the second day in a row wearing a big cast to protect his wrist.
”We’ll just evaluate him as he goes. We feel like he’s practiced well the last couple of days, he’s certainly trying to get acclimated to playing with that thing,” Garrett said. ”We’re hopeful he’ll continue to get comfortable by week’s end and be ready to go.”
Since there is no tackling in practice, the Cowboys won’t get to see how Lee will be able to handle that wearing the bulky protection until he gets into a game. There are also the limitations on how he will be able to use that hand to shed blockers or grab loose balls.
”You make your best assessment of the situation, factoring in what he’s been able to do in the past,” Garrett said. ”You watch him this week in practice, what kind of guy is he, how does he look. You put it all together and you make your best judgment.”
Notes: Punter Mat McBriar, who missed last week’s game because of a nerve problem in his left (planting) foot, said he was feeling better than last week and optimistic about the possibility of playing Sunday. He will have a better idea after practice Friday.