IRVING (AP) – DeMarcus Ware’s first game as a defensive end for Dallas started with an interception and ended without a tackle — or a sack.
There’s little question the star pass rusher for the Cowboys had a presence in a 36-31 victory over the New York Giants. And the Kansas City Chiefs will always know where Ware is when they come to the line of scrimmage Sunday.
It’s just weird to see a blank under tackles next to Ware’s name. It’s only happened one other time in his career — eight years ago, in the fifth game of his rookie season.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett says he’s sure of one thing: Ware won’t be a “sacks or nothing” guy on the outside of the new four-man front in first-year defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s scheme.
“He’ll make tackles,” Garrett said. “There’s no question about that. He’s always been a very good run player, an under-appreciated run player.”
There were some other numbers on that stat sheet. The biggest was the interception, which came when Ware read a screen and stepped in front of Eli Manning’s first pass.
It triggered a spurt of turnovers on New York’s first three possessions and was one of three interceptions for Dallas. Garrett credits Ware’s pressure for that.
Plus, the Cowboys had so many takeaways — six when a muffed punt is included — that the Giants were forced to throw 42 times and had only had 14 running plays because they were behind all night.
“I think it just depends on the running scheme, how many times they run the ball,” Ware said. “But you got to find a way to get your head in there and get some tackles.”
Ware’s top priorities are sacks and quarterback pressures, even more so than when he was an outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense and had more chances for tackles because he wasn’t a full-time pass rusher.
By the measure of pestering a quarterback, Ware was fine against the Giants. He was credited with six pressures — and gave himself 10 because he says he hit Manning “probably about four times if you really want to talk about that.”
But there is this bottom line: Ware went his third straight game without a sack going back to last season. It’s the longest drought since the end of 2011.
Ware has just 1.5 sacks in his past seven games, a significant dip considering he leads the NFL with 111 sacks since the start of 2005 and is three shy of tying Harvey Martin’s 30-year-old franchise record.
“With me, it’s all about getting even more pressure, getting there a little bit faster,” Ware said. “We got there, but me consistently I got to get there a little bit better.”
Not that he needed it, but Ware has a little more incentive to get there against the Chiefs. Maybe then he can pull down the cigar taped to the back of his locker, courtesy of Rod Marinelli. Ware’s new defensive line coach wrote “Close but no cigar” and signed it, “Your loving coach.”
“I’ve got to figure out some way to get him to take that cigar out of my locker,” Ware said.
Garrett doesn’t doubt that he will — and doesn’t think Ware has to get to the quarterback all the time to make a difference.
“He gets a lot of attention, has gotten a lot of attention his whole life,” Garrett said. “I thought he did a real good job impacting the game.”
Even with a rare shutout on tackles.
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