DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The Dallas Cowboys clinched the NFC East title and a berth into the playoffs with their 27-20 win over Tampa Bay; however, everyone knows that simply getting to the playoffs isn’t enough for the franchise.
“We’ve won the division 3 out of 5 years, but we really haven’t done anything in playoffs,” said Cowboys guard Zack Martin, after the game. “Guys are hungry to prove something in the playoffs, and we are looking forward to what lies ahead.”
In 2014 and 2016, the Cowboys relied on their offense to carry them into the postseason. It’s a much different story in 2018. This year in Dallas, Big D stands for defense.
“I think we can make as much noise as we want,” said running back Ezekiel Elliott. “You know we have a very tough defense that give offenses hell every week.”
Rob Marinelli, the defensive coordinator, said he believes in the team’s defense, hitting and hustle.
Two defensive players faced their share of adversity that made the signature play in Sunday’s game.
Defensive end Randy Gregory forced Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston to fumble the ball away. Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith was there to pick up the loose ball and race 69 yards for a touchdown.
It was one of two big plays made by Gregory against the Buccaneers. The scope of the impact was made even greater considering Gregory has missed a majority of games in his career for suspensions due to failed drug tests.
“I’m so proud of 94,” said owner Jerry Jones in reference to Gregory after the game. “The game he had, one of best he’s had for us.”
Jason Garrett gave a tremendous amount of credit to Gregory for his efforts on and off the field. Garrett also praised linebacker Jaylon Smith for battling what was considered a career threatening knee injury in college.
“A different kind of a challenge, you know he had a very serious knee injury that many people thought he would never play football again,” said Garrett.Smith said he’s used the adversity of his injury as motivation to succeed.
“Everyone has been thru something in their life,” said Smith. “Everyone has that edge and that drive. Once you find find it, you have to use it as fuel.”
The Cowboys defense is expected to be the engine to keep things firing on all cylinders into the playoffs.