New coordinator Rob Ryan has put the swagger and confidence back in the Cowboys' defense.
It is now showing on the field through the three games.
The futile and abject play of 2010, which featured the worst defense in team history, is gone.
The defense has gone from a liability to strength. They lead the league in sacks, rank second in yards and are sixth against the run.
Most important, the defense has dominated play in the fourth quarter and crunch time of the last two wins against the 49ers and Redskins.
The Cowboys will find out just how good they are Sunday against the Lions, which features one of the league's best pass offenses.
"They are an awfully good offense and they have a very, very good quarterback, first player taken in the draft in (Matthew) Stafford," coach Jason Garrett said. "You put on the tape and it's easy to see why he was that. Very talented guy, understands the game, can throw the ball all over the park. No. 81, their receiver Calvin Johnson, is arguably the best player in the National Football League. He's bigger than everybody else. He jumps up and catches the ball over his head. He runs with it after the catch. He does all the big things and little things well. It will be a tremendous challenge. They are one of the elite offenses in the league. Their offensive coordinator Scott Linehan does a great job in finding holes in defenses and attacking defenses. It will be a great challenge."
The Cowboys believe they are ready to meet the challenge because of Ryan.
His scheming and knowledge has made a huge difference as well as his ability to instill confidence and swagger back into the Cowboys' defenders who were beaten down after last season.
"That is Rob man, I give it all to Rob," said cornerback Mike Jenkins. "It comes from the play of the guys on the team but he is instilling it. He has great schemes. He makes us feel good. When we are down or somebody makes a mistake, he might tell a joke or something to get us back on track, a little crazy stuff to have you thinking and get your mind off the bad."
Linebacker Anthony Spencer says Ryan has made a huge difference for him. He has three sacks in the first three games.
Spencer said you don't even consider failure with Ryan.
"It takes it out completely," Spencer said. "He'll take the blame if it does happen. He'll tell you I told them to do this; I told them to do that. He wants you to make plays. That's his biggest thing. He's not concerned about giving up this or giving up that. He wants you to make plays. That's what we're out here to do, to play the game and make plays. He expects people to do that and everyone wants to do that. He makes it fun for us."
Garrett said the Cowboys are getting just what they expected when they named Ryan the defensive coordinator in the offseason.
They knew they had some talented players but they needed a coach who believed in them and who they believed in but who was also fundamentally sound.
22nd meeting. Cowboys lead series, 12-9. Dallas has won the last two and five of the last six meetings.
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