Dallas' aggressive defense making things happen

Updated: October 16, 2003, 2:58 PM ET
ESPN

IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys are not afraid to blitz from start to finish.

This isn't last year's defense that seemed to live by the "bend, but don't break" philosophy. Yet there are eight starters back from last season.

"We're a little bit more aggressive," 12th-year safety Darren Woodson, the only remaining Cowboy with three Super Bowl rings, said Wednesday. "I'm seeing it moreso this year than in the past, especially in crucial situations."

In Dallas' 23-21 win over Philadelphia on Sunday, the Eagles started their final drive near midfield with a minute to go. Instead of being careful, the Cowboys blitzed on three straight plays -- two incomplete passes, the first with Donovan McNabb under heavy pressure, followed by a game-clinching sack and fumble.

"We're not sitting back and waiting for them, for the offense to dictate what they are going to do to us," said tackle La'Roi Glover, who recovered the fumble. "We're attacking the line of scrimmage. ... That is an attitude change, and that's a mentality change."

Three blitzes in a row with the game on the line.

"It was a gutsy call," Woodson said. "You really have to have some confidence in your players to call it."

With four straight wins, the Cowboys (4-1) are feeling confident. They play Sunday in Detroit (1-4).

Dallas is second in the NFL, and leads the NFC, allowing just 259 yards a game. The Cowboys have five interceptions and four fumble recoveries.

Last season, Dallas lost seven games after leading or being tied in the fourth quarter and finished 5-11 for the third straight year. The Cowboys opened this season with a 27-13 loss to Atlanta, which without quarterback Michael Vick clinched the game with a late 14-play, 75-yard drive that took 8{ minutes.

"From that point on, we've gotten a lot more aggressive and played better," Woodson said.

Coach Bill Parcells talks every week with fourth-year defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, one of only a handful of carry-overs from the previous staff, about the philosophy of the defense.

"I've got to get a sense of a team, and I'm sensing the team likes to be aggressive now," Parcells said. "He knows I want some pressure defenses ready in the game."

Second-year safety Roy Williams keeps coming up with jarring hits. NFL career rushing leader Emmitt Smith left in his return to Dallas with a broken shoulder blade after taking a shot from Williams.

The Cowboys also able to be aggressive because of the continued development of cornerbacks Terence Newman, this year's No. 1 draft pick, Mario Edwards and Pete Hunter. And they hope soon to get Derek Ross back from a knee injury.

"Some of it is a mind-set. When we've got a team down, go for the throat," Edwards said. "The coaches had to get comfortable in the corners before blitzing like this, like we wanted to do."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index