Defense leaves Cowboys in quandary Front seven can't hide from blame for Minnesota debacle By Jennifer Floyd Engel Star-Telegram Staff Writer IRVING - Cowboys coach Bill Parcells sounded Monday a little like a kid who discovered the "Kick Me" sign on his back was put there by his best friend. He expected his inexperienced secondary to have a few hiccups. Especially against Minnesota's explosive offense. He expected his running game to be a work in progress. Especially with rookie Julius Jones inactive. His 11-man defensive group, though -- he expected more from them. What he got instead, watching them twice fail to hold the rope after Vinny Testaverde and the offense had clawed the Cowboys back to within four points in Sunday's game, both surprised and disappointed Parcells. "I'm hard-pressed to find one guy I think played to his potential on defense, not one," Parcells said. "I don't know what it was, but that wasn't the same group I've seen out there in the past." Parcells is talking about a defense that more Sundays than not said: "Come with me," almost single-handedly dragging the Cowboys into the playoffs last season. They have shown Parcells what they are capable of and, as a result, he has expectations. For them to not simply struggle, but fail to compete, had to feel like a punch to the stomach. "I think you can go through them one by one and be pretty accurate," Parcells said when asked if defensive end Marcellus Wiley was ineffective. "I have been through it. It wasn't good news for anybody." His is not another specific rant about the shortcomings of cornerback Pete Hunter and safety Tony Dixon, or what the secondary lacks generally. They are what they are. Parcells warned in training camp there would be growing pains, but he planned to stick with what they had. He reiterated both points Monday. Parcells said he "didn't want to give up on what I think is some reasonable ability" and he was going to "try to take them through the year and see where we are." It is a situation not unlike what the Cowboys had on offense last season. They had shortcomings, like a lack of quick-strike ability, which had to be offset by a conservative game plan and a dominant defense. The Cowboys have to play a complementary game on offense, as close to the game of keep-away they played with Minnesota in the first quarter Sunday as humanly possible, as well as implement a slightly more conservative defensive plan. Blitzing cannot be the sole provider of the pass rush. "We don't have to blitz to get to the quarterback," a testy defensive end Greg Ellis said. "We can get there." Except they didn't. Not Sunday. Not with four. Daunte Culpepper had plenty of time to pass. Not that the lack of consistent pressure from the front four is anything new. "Why must you blitz to pressure the quarterback?" has been a pressing question for the Cowboys' defense ever since Charles Haley and Tony Tolbert left town. "And until we do it consistently, there is going to be the same old questions," defensive end La'Roi Glover said. "Sure you want to sack him, but if you are not going to be able to sack him, just pressure him, contain him, don't let him scramble." The pressure is on the front four to help out the secondary until the secondary can help itself. They didn't do that Sunday. Nor did the linebackers. There is enough blame for every defensive player. While you can't blame them for doing whatever is necessary to stop wide receiver Randy Moss from single-handedly beating them, they also took safety Roy Williams out. He did not blitz. They had a couple called for him, but the offense made them check out of them. His appearance in the box was minimal. "Yeah, probably a little bit," Parcells conceded when asked if they had gone away from what makes Williams a game-changer by their game plan. "It's by choice because we wanted to try and keep Moss from being a major factor." The choice was not so much faulty as their unwillingness to deviate from it. "I want to do whatever the coach wants to get executed," Williams said. "If that means we want to double-cover Moss, then I'll double-cover Moss. I'm not going to be an individual talking about how I need to pad my stats. I'm a team player." What needs to be done now is for Williams to help keep the secondary together. The guys up front are the ones who need to prove to Parcells they are part of the solution, not the problem.