This Dallas Cowboys defense appears to be embracing the need for more turnovers in 2021. The results are starting to pile in and pay off.
After creating four turnovers in Game 1 of the season against Tampa Bay, the Cowboys (1-1) created a pair Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers in a 20-17 last-second victory. Both were interceptions, one by cornerback Trevon Diggs in the first half and the most important by safety Damontae Kazee in the red zone. Kazee’s interception was particularly crucial, as it came in the end zone as the Chargers tried to take the lead in the fourth quarter.
Kazee, a ball hawker favorite of new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, got playing time on Sunday in part because Donovan Wilson was unable to play due to injury.
Sunday’s interceptions are just one of the promising defensive trends after two games.
The Cowboys have four interceptions in two games so far this season. Lewis and Jourdan Lewis did the honors last week. Now four interceptions sound good, don’t they? Well that sounds even better when you compare it to what the Cowboys have been doing all last year. They had only had 10 interceptions and Diggs had three.
Simple math tells us that the Cowboys, at that rate, will get 34 assists this season (two per game multiplied by 17 games). Now that won’t happen, of course. But, in recent history, the Cowboys have struggled to create interceptions and turnovers. Dallas forced 23 turnovers last season, even though that total was in the NFL’s Top 10.
The fact that the Dallas defense has four interceptions in two games is a cause for joy for the Cowboys, who have gone to great lengths this offseason to find players and a ploy that can achieve that elusive goal.
But it becomes more promising.
Diggs is making sure the Cowboys’ second-round pick for him in 2020 just gets better and better. The sophomore corner not only has two interceptions in two games, he now has five in 14 NFL starts. Diggs finished last season with three interceptions. Before that, the last time a Cowboys cornerback or defenseman had three or more interceptions in a season was Jeff Heath in 2017.
Diggs became the first player to catch a pass in the Cowboys’ first two games of the season since linebacker Lee Roy Jordan in 1975.
Once again, Diggs probably won’t keep up with the pace he’s at. But it’s the kind of game-changing game the Cowboys were hoping for when they drafted it.
Plus, last year the Cowboys had a turnover problem to start the season. The Cowboys forced a turnaround in their first two games of 2020. So forcing six turnovers to start this season is a leap forward for this unit.
But, to be fair, the momentum was built in the later stages of last season. Beginning in the Cowboys’ Week 11 game with the Vikings, the Cowboys have forced one turn-over in every game since (a nine-game streak through Sunday), have forced multiple turnovers in seven of those matches and have forced multiple turnovers in six straight games. Sunday.
The Cowboys have forced an average of 2.4 turnovers per game during that nine-game streak. Their record? A modest 5-4.
It feels like it’s only a matter of time before the record of wins and losses catches up with the rate of return on those turnovers. And once that happens, the Cowboys could pick up speed quickly.
You can reach Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.