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August 20, 2013

Cowboys at least getting results from red-zone defense in preseason -- only 1 touchdown allowed in 10 trips

If the Cowboys are doing nothing else in the preseason, at least the Monte Kiffin defense is getting red-zone stops.

The Dolphins, Raiders and Cardinals have managed one red-zone touchdown on the Cowboys in 10 chances in three preseason games. It came in the first game, when the Dolphins scored on a 5-yard pass on fourth down in the fourth quarter of the Hall of Fame game.

The Cowboys have stopped two other red-zone fourth-down tries. Five times, they have forced field goals, and twice, they have made interceptions, by rookies J.J. Wilcox and DeVonte Holloman.

After three games, the sample size is enough to give the Cowboys confidence in the new scheme, brought in by Kiffin. His “Tampa 2,” with three zones of deep coverage, may allow yards. But for 10 consecutive years in Tampa Bay, Kiffin’s defenses were top-10 in the league in points allowed.

“It’s a new system. It’s kind of a learning curve,” cornerback Brandon Carr said. “But at the same time, it’s all about the effort we put into it with the guys in the classroom, asking questions on the field all the time. It’s an ongoing process. This is still another step in the right direction as far as creating an identity and still learning what we need to do to be successful in this defense. But so far so good.”

The red-zone numbers may look nice. But they are ultimately empty for the Cowboys if they don’t include turnovers of their own, linebacker Sean Lee said.

“Let’s get the ball. Let’s get the ball back,” he said. “Let’s find a way to knock the ball out, get a turnover – not allow any points to be put on the board. Three points is good. That’s a win in some sense. But we’ve got to pride ourselves on getting the ball out, and I think we could have done a better job, especially with the first unit.”

-- Carlos Mendez

Twitter @calexmendez



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