*How is Patrick Chung doing? *
COACH DAVIS: He's doing okay. You know, the shoulder, we tested it and it failed the test. There's a lot of pain involved so right now he's getting a couple different things looked at, so we'll see. As we go, we'll just go day‑to‑day with Patrick and see how it's coming along. *When was his Chung's first test? *
COACH DAVIS: Today and today he's been having it looked at again. It's a nerve thing so you have to go day‑to‑day. I've had a lot of linebackers I've coached in and out – [the] shoulder is an issue with linebackers a lot of times and it's a wild card when you're dealing with the kind of injury he has.
*Chip Kelly has said multiple times that Cedric Thornton is the best defensive lineman ‑‑ when you got here, what did you expect out of him? He did not have much of a pedigree. *
COACH DAVIS: Yeah, Cedric has really come along and grown well. I really wasn't expecting much because there wasn't much on him and I didn't have much history with him but he comes to work every day with the same attitude. He's all in every day and every game he's had the most contacts at the ball.
And a defensive lineman, when you get contact with the ball, that's really what the production comes from and he's gotten more than his share of getting to the football, which is what we are trying to get all of them to do.
It seems like Thornton's pass rush is a work‑in‑progress and sometimes it can be decent. If he can add that more, what's his capacity?
COACH DAVIS: The run is what he does the best, stop the run. He's a big, solid, square body in there and his pass rush is growing and growing as we continue to move forward and there's different kinds of pass rushers. There's the Vinny Currys that are edges and really get penetration, and the Cedrics that get a little more power and push.
Either way they are both moving the pocket back and it's harder to block the different styles. And when we rotate them in, that offensive lineman has to continually switch between Cedric's particular pass rush, Vinny's particular pass rush, Fletcher [Cox's] pass [rush], those inside guys. So our rotation benefits us in a way when we give them the different styles.
Is it overstating it that Cedric is playing at high a level?
COACH DAVIS: He's playing well and I didn't even think that was one of Cedric's better games. I thought he was good but he's had some more productive games. I'm very impressed with Ced and the movement and production he has. Seemed like Fletcher Cox got going. What did you see?
COACH DAVIS: Fletcher had his best game of the year and we needed it and it showed and he put a lot of pressure on the quarterback, disrupted the throwing motion of the quarterback often. A lot of those holding calls [occurred] where they couldn't block Fletch, so we benefitted from his game that he had. We get him to play like that every week, we'll keep moving forward.
*What is Cox's sort of attitude been like this entire season, changing schemes this year, and a successful rookie season. Has it been difficult for him to adapt to these two‑gap concepts? *
COACH DAVIS: He's the one that can answer that, but from my vantage point, I have seen nothing but him all in and diving into the techniques we are asking him to do.
Now, ask you if him and he tells you something different on the side, I don't know that side of it. I just watch every day's work ethic and what you do, and are you moving forward in the techniques I'm asking to you do, and the answer is yes with him.
*With Jason Witten the tight end and Dez Bryant and Miles Austin at receiver ‑‑ is this as difficult a trio as you've faced? *
COACH DAVIS: Absolutely. They have got some great weapons and a quarterback that knows how to distribute them and that's really what you come against, the big passing offenses, quarterback that can get the ball to playmakers, and the other part of that is having the playmakers and Dallas is loaded with playmakers. The issue of defense getting off the field on third-and-long, what did you see that broke down on Sunday and how do you fix it?
COACH DAVIS: I couldn't believe that the quarterback ran for 15 yards on the one call. We were doubling [Tampa Bay WR Vincent Jackson] out there so we had a double coverage on the guy they went to the most. The rush just lost sight of him and I really wouldn't have thought that he could have got the first but he did.
That's one of those ones that they made a good play and we couldn't get to him before he hit the 15. But overall, we continue to work on it. Early on, there was some zones that they were catching underneath and we were missing tackles. That one was just a quarterback scramble with the more athletic running quarterback, you don't make as many of those calls but with him, I thought we could be all right. They made a play there.
The third quarter was our biggest, that long drive in the third quarter is where we broke down on third down and it was more ‑‑ you always give credit to the offense that converted them, but we could have been doing our job better.
If we'd have played it the correct way, we probably would have been off the field a couple of times on that drive but that's part of the game. Every game has got its share of mistakes and you have to make sure that you make less than your opponent. On third down right now, we just have to kind of tighten the screws a little bit and make sure we get ourselves off the field, especially on third and winnable downs.
*Now you've been playing a left cornerback and a right cornerback. Why do that as opposed to have someone follow a top receiver? *
COACH DAVIS: First of all in practice, they switch right and left and left and right. We always have the ability to follow somebody if we want to but right now [Bradley Fletcher] Fletch and Cary [Williams] are so similar in their builds and their styles, that really if I felt there was an advantage, I would do it.
But there's a comfort zone that the corners get in on their sides and who they are working with. Now, I break that comfort zone every day in practice, so they switch every day so I can do it if I want. But right now there really hasn't been a situation to say, hey, this will benefit us more than just keeping them in their comfort zone.
To the untrained eye, seems to me that Bradley Fletcher has broken up a ton of passes in his direction and is usually pretty tight on the receiver. You don't think he's kind of separated as the top corner right now?
COACH DAVIS: I don't, because when you watch those same tapes, they are not throwing at Cary's guy, because he's just as covered, if that makes sense. If the ball is not thrown to your guy, you do a pretty good job, too, and the ball is going a different place. The other part of that is when the ball does come to you, how you make your plays and Fletch is making them.
Right now, those guys are really taking a step forward and our press coverage is improving. It's moving forward with the techniques and the system I think they are getting a comfort with the communication part of it, with the techniques I'm asking them to do within the calls.
You know, the little tiny things that I think is hard to explain but if they all line up and stay still, you can execute just about anything and be where you're supposed to be. It's when they start moving and shifting and motioning and things change that you've got to be able to change quickly and we are starting to be able to change quicker.
What is your blueprint for trying to defend Tony Romo, doesn't have Michael Vick's speed but he can be elusive in the pocket?
COACH DAVIS: I think one of the biggest things that Romo does is he extends the play. If the initial play is not there, like a couple of quarterbacks in the league, the Roethlisbergers, they don't necessarily run to run, they run to extend the play and the receivers do a great job of, when it breaks down, coming back to the ball, finding the open area.
So we have to be great at finishing the broken play, as far as our coverage and staying attached in coverage. That's one of challenges, and I think the Denver game kind of showed that. They didn't stay attached all the time and all of a sudden ‑‑ because Tony will see the field. He's got vision of the whole field and he'll find the guy that just [you] drift off of and we can't drift off our coverage.
How different will it be if Dallas running back DeMarco Murray is unable to play?
COACH DAVIS: Well, I think any time you lose a weapon like Murray and they have been using him and he's been a great balance to their offense, I think it hurts you.
Now, I don't know what answer they will come up with; you always have to be prepared to stop that run and the run game they presented. But when you lose a playmaker, obviously it changes their outlook and we've got to find out early what that change in philosophy may be.
*While Romo is able to extend a play, he also gambles a lot and throws the ball into coverage. Could this give your defense an opportunity? *
COACH DAVIS: Absolutely. It really comes down, when you study him over time, he's either really hot or really off and sometimes it's through the course of one single game. He may be first half hot, second half cold and vice versa. You have to play him all the way through four quarters.
I think you've got to challenge the receivers and challenge him to find the opening and keep moving it on him. I think he'll make some plays and I think he'll make some mistakes.
What did you see on the field on the touchdown throw to Vincent Jackson on the slant. Was Fletcher supposed to have help inside?
COACH DAVIS: There were a couple breakdowns in that. It was really a group effort on that one. We had a couple guys that were not close enough to it and we talked a lot about it. We got it fixed, and it was a bad ‑‑ I could have made a better call, we could have had better coverage. It was a group thing that gave up a touchdown. I would like to have that one back in a lot of different ways. *Is that play different ‑‑ it looks like they got suckered by the play-action a little bit. *
COACH DAVIS: Yeah, we had an unblocked player at the quarterback but again, the techniques I've asked them to do to chase the run first and then contain the pass second, he was doing what he was told. I take full responsibility for that one. We've tweaked some of the techniques there but we could have been better all the way around on that play.
*Do you remember a quarterback being in question when you're going into a week and not knowing who is going to start and if so, what problems did that create for you as a coordinator? *
COACH DAVIS: It does give you a problem. For instance, last year in Cleveland we were going to face Washington after [Robert Griffin III] was hurt and they did a nice job of not knowing which one we were going to get, [Kirk] Cousins or RG3 and we played it a lot for the read option and all that. Spent a lot of practice time doing that and then all of a sudden we got Kirk Cousins and it wasn't that plan at all. So you took a lot of your reps away so it really makes you split your preparation for the week because you have to prepare for both.
You can't read into anything. You have to make sure that you're ready for all scenarios and when you have two drastically different quarterbacks, it does cut your preparation in half.
They talk a lot here about how these guys are both effective but would that be a problem for you because they do dissimilar things?
COACH DAVIS: I would say yes. I would answer that question yes.
Are you getting enough pass rush pressure from your outside linebackers, particularly Trent Cole?
COACH DAVIS: Trent has got a lot of pressure on the quarterback. When you break down the film, he's getting chips and he's getting attention and sometimes that opens [things] for other people.
But right now, our pass rush ‑‑ the sacks will come in bunches. I think Trent will have a breakout game and you'll see the work that he's put in and I think that will happen with our defensive line in general. I think we are getting close. We've had a couple games in a row with intentional groundings and different interceptions.
Again, it's a quarterback's choice when I'm under duress: Do I throw it away, do I throw it into coverage, or do I take the sack? And right now, quarterbacks are choosing the other, but those sacks will come. I think the guys are getting closer and closer.
You've made a concerted effort to take away the deep ball this year and you've done a good job of it. What impact has that had on DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks coverage ability in front of the secondary?
COACH DAVIS: Well, I think one of the biggest things is we are not giving up those deep ones and that's what one of the main goals was. The intermediate one's we've now got to tighten down on. The ones are that getting to the 15 to the 25s, that immediate coverage ‑‑ I do believe the guys are getting a better understanding of the deep to short and coming up. And then when they do take the check down ‑‑ again, those are in zones; if I want to take everybody, put a body on a body, I'll go to the mans. But right now I think we are growing in the direction of getting tighter in the intermediate part of our zones and that's what has to improve.
Is it fair to say that you've been more aggressive as a play caller during the latter stages of the last two games compared to how you were earlier in the season when you had some leads?
COACH DAVIS: You know, I don't know. I look at the amount of pressures and it really changes by what's kind of hitting, what their answer to the pressure is; are they keeping more into the block, are they chipping, are they giving us free access, are they turning the line, are they opening up A‑gaps?
There's so many things that go into what they are doing that make the decision on 'Do we add the extra pressure or do we fall back with the extra coverage?' I think the game has dictated it probably more than just, lately I made a conscious change.
You know, that second half there's so many adjustments and you've kind of seeing what they're doing, so now you have to make sure that you're applying the right calls and/or pressure calls or don't pressure to what their answer is to what they have been giving.
I don't think you've faced as good of a receiver this year as Dez Bryant. Without giving too much away, how do you stop a guy like that?
COACH DAVIS: Well, he's a heck of a challenge. He's got the size, speed, athleticism. We face a couple of them but we've got to be great with our one‑on‑one matchup of both corners. Fletch and Cary have to be great in their individual coverage on them because they will have ‑‑ you can't double a guy every play.
So they will have plenty of times where they've got to just handle that and we will get help to them and zone over the top of them and use all of the different tools to help when you stop a star receiver.
He'll move around a little bit. They keep him moving. They have a couple weapons, though. That's the biggest challenge: As soon as you give attention there, now you have Witten. You give attention to Witten and him and now you've got [Miles] Austin. There's a lot of moving parts that we've got to account for.
*So do you put the game plan together assuming it's Earl Wolff and Nate Allen at safety with Chung's injury? *
COACH DAVIS: Really, the philosophy of this defense is the next man has to step up and handle the scheme.
And whether, whatever safeties we have active, they are responsible for it. I'm not going to cut back because of a young guy in or not, because at this point in time, you know, he's held responsible for knowing all of it, and I'm not going to change and affect the rest of them for somebody. I'll go as fast as the top group can handle the scheme and we'll stay there. We won't slow it down. He's done a nice job so far. There's mistakes in every game and he's had no more or less than anybody else.