Interceptions few and far between
IRVING, Texas — Dallas cornerback Morris Claiborne probably figured his first NFL touchdown would come on an interception. The rookie had to settle for a fumble return because the picks have been a little hard to come by for the Cowboys.
After trading up eight spots to take Claiborne at No. 6 in this year’s draft and committing at least $26 million to free agent Brandon Carr, Dallas is last in the league with five interceptions and the only team without a player who has at least two heading into Sunday’s game at Cincinnati.
“We certainly want to create more takeaways,” coach Jason Garrett said. “There’s no question about that.”
Dallas scored three defensive touchdowns in two games against the Eagles, including Claiborne’s 50-yard fumble return in Sunday’s 38-33 win. In the first meeting, Carr had a 47-yard interception return and Jason Hatcher recovered a fumble at the goal line after a sack in a 38-23 Dallas win.
“We believe that turnovers and takeaways are a team thing,” Garrett said. “So everybody’s involved, pressuring the quarterback, tipping the ball, all of those things come into play.”
Four starters are out for the year, and the Dallas defense slipped out of the top 10 after the Eagles gained 423 yards with rookies at quarterback and running back. Improving the minus-10 turnover ratio might be the only way for the Cowboys (6-6) to stay in the playoff race — or more games where the Dallas offense matches all the scoring drives, like it did against Philadelphia.
“We can’t use (injuries) as an excuse, but I feel like that plays a big part in it,” Claiborne said. “We just have to count on those guys to come in and get the job done. And ... we’ve been compensating for each other all year, from the offense to the defense. Every time we gave up a touchdown, they came back and scored a touchdown to keep us in the game.”
Dallas isn’t anywhere close to the bottom of the league in turnover ratio — that would be Kansas City at minus-21 — but only three players expected to play Sunday have an interception.
Danny McCray, who was supposed to be a backup safety, has one along with Carr and Claiborne. The others belong to linebacker Sean Lee — out for the year with a toe injury — and safety Charlie Peprah, who might not make it back this season because of a foot injury.
The turnover ratio for Dallas might be worse if not for eight fumbles, about in the middle of the NFL pack.
“We just have to stop them from scoring,” linebacker Anthony Spencer said. “Any way we can do it — interceptions, fumbles, three-and-outs, six plays and out. Any way we can get off the field, that’s how we’ve got to get it done.” a couple seasons with impressive numbers, but when it comes to what most coaches and quarterbacks are measured by — wins and Super Bowls — the Kubiak-Schaub team is lacking.
The two have yet to even make a playoff appearance together. Barring an injury, that should finally happen in January, since the Texans clinched their second playoff berth this past Sunday.
On the same day, the Patriots, who host Houston on Monday night, clinched their 10th division title in 12 seasons, and in one of those nontitle years, Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first game.
Belichick and Brady, who last year passed Don Shula and Dan Marino’s 116 wins to become the winningest duo in the Super Bowl era, have appeared in five Super Bowls and are the runaway leaders among actives tandems with 133 wins (38 losses). Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning are a distant second with 76.
The Schaub-Kubiak combo is 43-33, trailing the likes of Matt RyanMike Smith (54-20), Joe Flacco-John Harbaugh (53-23) and Aaron Rodgers-Mike McCarthy (4925), in wins and winning percentage, though each of those quarterbacks became starters a year after Schaub.
Schaub-Kubiak may never be talked about like Brady-Belichick, but it appears that over the next few years the twosome is set up to do well.