GREEN BAY – The Packers watched the Dallas defense on Monday Night Football.
Then they watched the Cowboys’ best unit some more in the film room on Tuesday.
They couldn’t help but be impressed with a group that’s coming to Lambeau Field on Sunday tied for fifth in the league in yards allowed, and just outside the top 10 on third down.
“Very fast. Very fast defense,” Packers receiver James Jones said. “To be honest with you, their record doesn’t really say how good their defense is.”
That record is 4-8, but it’s a defense that just held division rival Washington to 266 total yards, keeping the Redskins out of the end zone until the game’s final minute.
“They’re flying all over the place,” Jones said. “They look like they’re well-coached. They don’t really give up too many points. They’ve got a nice little package. They know what they’re trying to do to every team.”
The guy who makes it all work is inside linebacker Sean Lee (pictured). The Packers didn’t see him in the playoffs last January because Lee missed the entire 2014 season due to injury.
This year, Lee has come back to once again lead the Cowboys in tackles. He’s already over 100 for the season, and he’s tied for the team lead in tackles for loss with eight.
“Unbelievable player,” said rookie running back John Crockett, who may get a chance to meet Lee in the hole at some point on Sunday.
“You don’t want to focus too much into one simple guy, but at the end of the day, he’s a tremendous player. We know he does a lot for that defense, mentally and physically.”
Dallas cranked up the pressure against Washington with an array of blitzes and recorded three sacks. Four players on the Cowboys’ defense have at least four sacks this season.
In a normal year, a 4-8 team wouldn’t have much at stake at this stage, but this has been anything but a normal year in the NFC East.
The Cowboys’ last-second win over the Redskins on Monday night dropped Washington into a three-way tie for first place with the Giants and Eagles at 5-7. Dallas, despite winning for the first time all season without QB Tony Romo on Monday, is not out of it. Not at all.
“They’re going to come in here a game out of first,” Jones said. “They’re trying to make it to the playoffs, we’re trying to make it to the playoffs.
“They’re going to come in here amped up, especially after what happened last year. I’m sure they’ve got a little more fire up under them.”
The Packers’ playoff victory over the Cowboys 11 months ago seems like ancient history. Both teams are so different now.
The Packers aren’t the offensive juggernaut they were, though the defense is holding up its end. The Cowboys have dealt with major injuries to Romo and receiver Dez Bryant, who is now back, but no one envisioned 4-8 after they came a controversial Bryant non-catch from beating the Packers and advancing to the NFC title game last January.
“It’s crazy, but hey, they’re in it,” defensive back Micah Hyde said. “That’s all you can ask for them as a group, so they’re going to be playing hard. What did you say? 4-8? It’s crazy, but it’s the NFL.”
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