ASHBURN, Va. – The 99-point bonanza between the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos wasn't thrilling entertainment for everyone. Consider the thoughts of a certain television viewer, one who will face both teams in the next three weeks as a member of the NFL's worst-ranked defense.
"I'm glad that it's not just us. It's hard to play defense in this league nowadays," Washington Redskins nose tackle Barry Cofield said. "There's a lot of points being scored, a lot of yardage. And the rules are tougher than ever, combined with the schemes being more advanced than ever, it's just hard to get stops, especially against a talented offense."
Cofield and the Redskins (1-3) travel to Dallas (2-3) to face the Cowboys on Sunday night. Washington has a shot at moving into first place in the NFC East with a win, but only if it slows down — or outscores — an offense that produced a club-record 506-yard passing performance by Tony Romo in the 51-48 loss to the Broncos.
"We're going to try to make them one-dimensional, but if the one dimension can throw for 500 and five touchdowns, it's not really ideal," Cofield said. "It's tough. We've got to force turnovers throughout the game. We've got to make big plays when they arise, and we're going to count on our offense to be the offense we know they can be. They're going to score some points, and that's going to help us get in a situation where they can be one-dimensional and we can really rush the quarterback."
Cofield literally sits at the middle of the enterprise. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett considers the nose tackle to be starting point to a well-run 3-4 defense, and he considers Cofield to be the best nose tackle in the league.
Certainly, Cofield wasn't the best for the first two games of the season, when he was wearing a football-sized cast on his broken right hand. It's hard to grab and tackle with five fingers instead of 10.
With the cast gone, he got his first two sacks of the season in the pre-bye win over the Oakland Raiders.
"The first sack I had, I kind of twisted around him a little bit, I grabbed him with both hands," Cofield said. "And if I only had one hand, odds are he's going to escape out of that and somebody else is going to get that sack, which is not what I want. I want to have it for myself."
Despite the end of the sack drought, Cofield didn't do his famous shimmying "Taser dance" after getting to the quarterback in Oakland.
"I want to save it for the home fans," Cofield said. "That was my thought process. I was tired. (Backup) Chris Neild got banged up early, so I feel like that Taser might have sent me into a full-body cramp. I didn't want to waste any energy."
Cofield's struggles with his broken hand don't compare to his learning curve in his first year with the Redskins in 2011. After five years playing the 4-3 with the New York Giants, he said he looked "like a rookie" learning the 3-4.
"Last year when we showed the tape from 2011, I would always tell (defensive line coach Jacob) Burney and coach Haz: 'Next clip, next clip. That was last year,'" Cofield said.
Now he has the 3-4 down pat and his broken hand is nearly mended, a must-have combination if the Redskins are going to climb off the bottom of the league's defensive rankings.
"Barry's a playmaker," linebacker London Fletcher said. "And it's hard for him to be able to make plays when he had that big club on his hand. You still have to commend him for what he was able to do with the club, but you see him able to make more plays now that he's freed up."
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