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Rod Marinelli reluctantly dials up successful blitzes against Washington

The Cowboys kept the pressure on Kirk Cousins all game with an array of pressures from linebackers and safeties. AP Photo/Alex Brandon

IRVING, Texas -- On the Washington Redskins' first play Monday night, Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli called a safety blitz.

Safety Barry Church helped Demarcus Lawrence sack Kirk Cousins and establish a tone for the game. Marinelli called another one on second down, resulting in a pressure by J.J. Wilcox.

The Cowboys limited Washington to 266 yards and a 4.4 yards average per play. They gave up 15 first downs and just one touchdown, in part, because Marinelli kept the pressure on Cousins all night with an array of pressures from linebackers and safeties.

Linebacker Sean Lee recorded his second sack of the season later in the first quarter on a blitz up the middle.

Understand, Marinelli doesn’t like to blitz. Abhors it. He wants to use a four-man rush to harass the quarterback and drop seven into coverage because he believes that’s the best way to play pass defense. The problem, of course, is the Cowboys’ pass rush has been useless much of the season.

That means quarterbacks have more time to go through their progressions and find open receivers. Marinelli changed his tactics against Washington because the Cowboys needed to enhance their pass rush, and they believed Washington would have difficulty handling the blitz.

“Some of those pressures had been good for us, and you want to constantly be on the attack,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “There are different ways to attack.

“The key to those pressures is the execution of the pressures. You can dial them up all you want, but if you don’t do them the right way you’re not going to get home.”

That means linebackers and safeties disguising the blitz until the last possible second. It means defensive linemen going hard through the right gaps to create openings for the linebackers.

It means the entire defense being in sync.

“Our guys did a good job working on them during the week and they came up in the ballgame,” Garrett said. “I do think they made a big difference. We affected the quarterback a lot, and we came up with some minus plays in the running game and the passing game."