IRVING, Texas — Plenty of players were around when Dallas safety Barry Church scooped up a loose football and ran 27 yards untouched to the end zone.
Ball-hawking defense was a scene that played out constantly during practice in the offseason and training camp for the Cowboys — pretty much ever since Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli showed up in January preaching turnovers. It’s a group effort.
Church’s play in the third quarter of the season opener against the New York Giants was followed by Brandon Carr’s clinching 49-yard interception late in the fourth of a 36-31 Dallas victory that included six New York turnovers.
Now the Cowboys have to work on stopping someone without a takeaway since Eli Manning kept the Giants close with 450 yards passing and four touchdowns. Dallas goes for its first 2-0 start since 2008 on Sunday at Kansas City.
“I think six was a lot, but we’ve been thinking about it,” linebacker Sean Lee said. “We’ve been working at it non-stop. We have a lot of room to improve defensively. We gave up a lot of yards. We have to improve that.”
It will be next to impossible to improve on turnovers. Or maybe not, given how much they are emphasized by Kiffin, the 73-year-old defensive coordinator, and sidekick Marinelli, who was defensive coordinator last year in Chicago when the Bears led the league with 44 takeaways.
Throughout offseason workouts in Texas and camp practices in California, Dallas defenders were swiping at the ball, or picking it up and running toward the end zone. They didn’t care whether the whistle had blown.
Most of the players around Church on Sunday night must have thought the whistle blew, because they stood around as the ball bounced away from Giants running back David Wilson just before he hit the ground.