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Barry Church's return has sparked Cowboys defense

FRISCO, Texas -- Perhaps it is just a coincidence, but since Barry Church's return from a fractured forearm, the Dallas Cowboys defense is affecting the quarterback more and taking the ball away more.

Now, Church does not have a sack or interception, but something has changed.

“Barry’s been a leader for us, a guy who communicates for us, and having him back has been huge for us, especially communication wise,” linebacker Sean Lee said.

In the last four games, Church has 38 tackles and two pass deflections, but the Cowboys have recorded five of their nine interceptions, five of their 11 fumble recoveries and 14 of their 34 sacks during that span.

“Should be even more picks; I dropped two,” Church said, referring to missed opportunities against the New York Giants on Dec. 11.

Church leads the Cowboys with two interceptions and is second on the defense in tackles with 102 by the coaches count, despite missing four games.

“He’s always had a knack for being around the ball and has made a lot of plays on the ball throughout his career,” coach Jason Garrett said. “I do think he’s the kind of player that positively impacts his teammates. He’s got great energy. He’s a really good communicator. I think guys respond well to him.

"There’s no question he has a positive impact on our team. Other guys have certainly stepped up and taking the ball away is important. He’s had a knack for it, and hopefully he’s inspired other guys to do that as well.”

Church’s return has restored a natural order of sorts to the secondary. It coincided with the thigh injury to J.J. Wilcox that cost him three games, which meant the Cowboys defense did not need to break in a new strong safety. It allowed Byron Jones to play more free and gave confidence to their cornerbacks.

“I just feel like I’m doing my job back there, getting everybody lined up, and communication is the key,” Church said. “That’s the big key. A lot of the times if we give up a big play or a big run, it’s all due to communication. We’ve got to sew that up a little bit better going into Philadelphia, but we should be alright.”

Church is looking forward to Sunday’s game against Philadelphia because he expects to play with a smaller brace protecting his forearm. A bulky cast had forced him to miss some action because it slides down his arm.

“I’ve been trying to get the small one since New York,” Church said, “but they’re not playing games with this.”