The Cowboys have had numerous story lines covering the offensive side of the ball throughout their season. Between a dominating #1 offensive line, two rookies running the show, and a quarterback controversy, the Dallas offense have carried the burden of media attention.

While reporters have swarmed to cover Dak, Zeke, Tony Romo, the offensive line, and Dez Bryant, the defense has been quietly building a fantastic season. Having been criticized for not having an elite pass rusher, the Cowboys progress on defense has been surprising. By the end of the regular season, the Cowboys’ rush defense placed first, allowing only 83.5 yards per game. They held their opponents to 19 points on average and they have the league’s second place tackler (up until resting him in Week 17’s game) in Sean Lee, who concluded the season with 145.

Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli has essentially worked miracles with this year’s defense. To him, the most important statistic isn’t even measurable. “The one statistic that doesn’t come out, that nobody ever talks about or nobody ever keeps, is hustle, hitting and discipline,” Marinelli said via ESPN. “Those are the ones that are important to me.”

Finishing 14th in total team defense, Dallas has come out of the regular season as a surprising underdog who performs better than expected week to week.

Although they fell all the way to 26th in pass defense, much of that has been due to injury in the secondary. But in the end, Marinelli says stats don’t matter. “Anybody can pick up a stat sheet and talk about it. That’s irrelevant. It’s when you’re really involved in the game and you see what we’re trying to see — that’s what is relevant.”

Dallas concluded the season with numerous injuries across the board on defense including Anthony Brown, Morris Claiborne, Jack Crawford, Tyrone Crawford, Justin Durant, Randy Gregory, Demarcus Lawrence, Sean Lee, Terrell McClain, and Cedric Thornton. Having a bye week before their first playoff game on January 15th will be a huge asset to the Cowboys being healthy and having success in the divisional round.

Lauren Scullion is a lifelong Cowboys fan, secret Packers fan, Dallas Cowboys/ NFL writer, social media guru and NFC East know-it-all.