The Dallas Cowboys are 1-3 (and a historic comeback away from 0-4), and are facing some hard questions.
Specifically, the defense is facing questions after a 49-38 loss to the Cleveland Browns. Dallas allowed a franchise-record 307 rushing yards on Sunday, and has allowed 38 points or more in each of its past three games. It ranks last in the NFL in points allowed per game, and third-to-last in total yards allowed.
When asked about the unit’s effort, fourth-year safety Xavier Woods defended the group, but said that expecting the defenders to go full speed every player is not feasible.
"Our effort's been good," Woods said Wednesday. "I mean, on certain plays some guys, I mean, me included, there may be a lack, but overall the effort is there. I mean, you don't expect, we're in the NFL, you don't expect guys full speed for 70 plays. That's not possible. But you're going to push all you can. I mean, we know. You don't expect a backside corner to make a play on the opposite side. If he's running full speed the whole time, it's just not possible, to be honest."
Rare is the NFL player who will publicly admit that his team is incapable of 100 percent effort during a game. That’s not to say Woods is wrong — players experience fatigue like any human (just a lot less usually) — it’s just an admission rarely seen. Fans will hold a lack of effort against an athlete a lot more than a lack of talent.
Discussion around Woods’ comment eventually reached the team’s head coach, Mike McCarthy. The coach seemed to treat it as more of a miscommunication than a damning statement against the team:
"I think it was a situation of trying to answer questions after a poor performance is the way I would classify it," McCarthy said Thursday of Woods' comments. "I don't think it's a statement that can be laid up against every possible situation in football as far as hypotheticals and things like that. We've addressed our performance Sunday. It was poor. The coaching on pursuit and expectations is on line with everybody's expectations and understanding on how you play this game."
Fortunately for the Cowboys, their next opponent is Daniel Jones and the New York Giants, who rank last in the NFL in points per game with 11.8. If they can’t win that battle between stoppable force and moveable object, things are going to look pretty bleak.
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