Cowboys defense won’t try to ‘play chess with Tom Brady’
When the Cowboys played the Buccaneers to open the 2021 season, the Dallas defense recorded no sacks from quarterback Tom Brady. That’s something head coach Mike McCarthy hopes to change this Sunday when the two teams meet again to kick off their regular season.
Of course, some things will have changed in the 367 days between this game and next Sunday. Last year, Brady, the ageless wonder, had just won his seventh Super Bowl victory and was the toast of Tampa. This time around, the 45-year-old is coming off a short-lived retirement in February and a mysterious 11-day absence right in the middle of Buccaneers training camp.
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Last September, the offensive line in front of Brady had three players who would advance to the Pro Bowl. Now Ali Marpet has hung up his cleats, Ryan Jensen is on IR and Tristan Wirfs has just suffered an oblique injury.
And the Cowboys’ streak, at least defensively, has only gone up since that night’s 31-29 thriller. It’s still going up.
So there may be more opportunities for Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence and Co. to head to Brady this opening night. But McCarthy thinks the team’s defensive tackles could be the key to actually pocketing Brady.
“I think the older and more experienced your quarterback is, the more inside pressure you have to give him,” the coach told reporters on Monday of The Star. “Their ability to walk and slide and slide, the number of reps that 10+ quarterbacks have – it’s really so much in their wheelhouse, the ability to play in the A and B gaps. The cutting edge stuff don’t bother them so much; they’ve seen it, they’ve felt it. They’ve got plenty of experience taking a deeper drop, setting high to buy themselves another yard and a half into their rig. All those things come with experience. Practice – I’ve been lucky enough to work with older quarterbacks – you have to, really, always talk about those A and B gaps. “Nobody goes through the A and B holes. keep these gaps A clean.
Or, if the older quarterback is on the other side, flood those A and B gaps with relentless inside pressure. Quinton Bohanna, Osa Odighizuwa, Neville Gallimore and Trysten Hill… get ready to rock and roll.
It’s a move Brady has no doubt seen before; McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn won’t try to reinvent the wheel Sunday night against a passer who’s literally seen it all.
“Certainly,” admitted McCarthy. “It is part of his greatness, his instinct and his conscience. Him and Aaron [Rodgers], I mean, how many guys have played that much? It’s definitely a big part of what they bring to the table. In my opinion, the scheme will be important in this game because history will tell you that 35% of the plays in this game are going to be unspotted or will be some sort of variation of things we’ve seen before. So really, we focus on the basics and our game. We just want to get up and compete. We’re not going to sit here and try to play chess with Tom Brady.
But as with any defensive game plan the Cowboys have crafted over the past season, their own locker room chess prodigy appears to be the X factor. pass defended in his NFL debut against Tampa Bay last September, Parsons is now the league’s reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year, and he plans to move across the board with a dizzying variety of offensive gambits.
“I think Micah upped it and took it to a whole new level,” McCarthy said. “He had great practices throughout training camp. Just a few of the things he did in the pass rush drills; I’m just thinking about the Chargers week. But it’s gone to another level since we got back from Oxnard. He’s probably had two or three practices where he’s been super, extremely disruptive, and I think he’s the next step. I know he has a very strong desire to be an elite player. I feel – and I think everyone agrees – that he is that or will be for us. It involves a lot of responsibility. You can see the energy. He is inside. ”
McCarthy says the intensity has been contagious throughout the defense, steadily increasing day by day as the regular season approaches.
“It’s game week. They are all inside. The mood today was totally different from what it was on Monday.
Whether that will be enough for the Cowboys to beat the Bucs for the team’s first-ever win over Brady remains to be seen. And then, of course, there are 16 more games to follow. It will be a marathon, not a sprint, for a Dallas defensive unit that, for the first time in a long time, could expect to carry a slimmed down and somewhat disparate Cowboys offense.
When asked how this Cowboys defense compares to some of his former units, McCarthy recalled his 2010 Packers. This crew, led by Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson, Nick Collins, AJ Hawk and others, finished the season ranked fifth in yards allowed and second in runs allowed, sacks and interceptions. And they held opposing quarterbacks to the lowest passer rating in the NFL en route to a Super Bowl XLV victory.
In other words, a good bar to aim for.
“It’s the highest rated defense I’ve ever had as a head coach, and I think this one definitely has the look and the ability to be a defense of that caliber,” McCarthy said. .
“I’m thrilled to see this defense come together on Sunday night.”