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September 30, 2012

Ryan says it'll be a bigger deal if Cowboys are No. 1 on defense after 16 weeks, but 'we're not ashamed of it'

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan promised he’d bring a No. 1-rated defense to the Cowboys, and he’s done it.

Three weeks into the season, the Cowboys lead the NFL in fewest yards allowed, the league’s traditional measure for defensive ranking.

Big deal, coach?

“It’s going to be big if we can get it after 16 weeks,” Ryan said Saturday at Valley Ranch in his usual ‘Friday’ meeting with reporters. “It’ll be good. We’re happy with where we are. Guys have been working hard. We’re not ashamed of being No. 1, that’s where we want to be. We’re excited about that. We want to keep getting better.”

The Cowboys have gotten to No. 1 on defense despite injuries that have knocked out three starters – nose tackle Jay Ratliff (who hasn’t played yet), defensive end Kenyon Coleman (one game), safety Gerald Sensabaugh (one game) and safety Barry Church (season-ending Achilles last week).

Now, linebacker Anthony Spencer is slowed. He’s missed practice all week with a shoulder injury.

“We’ve had a lot of guys play for us, which a lot of people do – you go through injuries, that’s part of the game,” Ryan said. “It’s exciting. Our guys have really worked hard for that, and we’re not making apologizes for being No. 1.”

Ryan was asked if he simply has better players to work with this year as opposed to his first year with the Cowboys.

“Well, I definitely think we have excellent players,” he said. “We’ve got excellent coaches. With our team the way we play all three phases, yeah, we can definitely be successful. I think we could have been successful last year. We weren’t as successful obviously. But those guys worked hard, and we had some good veteran players on that group as well. But the guys are really functioning together as a group. And I think no one wants to let the others down, that’s for sure.”

-- Carlos Mendez

Twitter @calexmendez

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