The Dallas Cowboys scored 54 points on Sunday Night against the Indianapolis Colts but it wasn’t all about the offensive efforts. In fact, you could argue it was mostly about the defense.

After all, five of the Cowboys’ eight touchdowns came off of defensive takeaways. That would include a Malik Hooker scoop-and-score against the team that drafted him in 2018. In total, Dan Quinn’s unit finished with three interceptions and two forced fumbles (both recovered).

There’s definitely some data-backed truth about the element of luck being involved in turnovers when it comes to the NFL. However, Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy insists his team prioritizes it and takes pride in it.

“Everybody practices it, I get that,” the Cowboys head coach told reporters after the game “But we put a lot of emphasis into a lot of time into a lot of extra video and our guys just eat it up.”

That shows. The Cowboys are second in the NFL in takeaways (21) and were first last year (34). Even before Dan Quinn’s arrival in Dallas, McCarthy’s team finished in the Top 10 in his first year as head coach.

But McCarthy knows it’s also about the opportunities the team creates to take the ball away and not only the actual ones.

“You can see the aggressiveness of our defense, and we still had some other opportunities too. I know we were plus-four,” added McCarthy. “You know we track takeaway opportunities too, I’d be interested to see if we hit the double digits mark.”

“10-plus opportunities to take the ball away, you know you’re flying around and anticipating where you’re doing a lot of good things.”

That’s definitely an accurate way to describe the Cowboys defense through 12 games of the season. They fly around when rushing the passer, in coverage, and even swarming to the football.

But for Dallas’ players, it’s not all about being aggressive. In fact, there are explicit instructions to not overdo things and remain patient.

“You do (get greedy after getting one interception),” said Cowboys cornerback DaRon Bland, who had two picks in the game. “But we preach on this defense the plays will come; so, no chasing.”

Talk about perfect balance. Aggressive but no chasing.

The rookie didn’t have to chase to be productive. He picked off Matt Ryan twice waiting for his chance and making the most out of it. Bland is now tied for the Cowboys’ lead with Trevon Diggs with three interceptions each.

What’s even more impressive is the fact that five different Cowboys have at least one interception this season while 13 different players have forced a fumble (including special teams).

It’s a tale as old as football itself. Win the turnover battle and you will win ballgames. The Cowboys know the emphasis they’ve put on it has been worth it every step of the way.

Featured image via Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Could not load the poll.