Special day for Cowboys safety in win over Colts

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Brandon Wade/AP/Shutterstock (13435805mt) Dallas Cowboys safety Malik Hooker (28) is seen during the first half of an NFL football game against the Washington Commanders, in Arlington, Texas. Dallas won 25-10 Commanders Cowboys Football, Arlington, United States – 02 Oct 2022

Special day for Cowboys safety in win over Colts

Sunday night was personal for Cowboys safety Malik Hooker.

Hooker, once a Colt, made his former team pay with a pair of turnovers that both turned into touchdowns in the Cowboys’ 35-point drubbing of Indianapolis.

“When we do talk about takeaways, we talk about takeaways for the offense,” Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. “So, it is not just creating takeaways for the sake of that purpose, to play complimentary football. That is what I do love about our team, if you could be there in the locker room afterwards to see the excitement on both sides of the ball, really all three phases. Sometimes, if you didn’t know who was who, you wouldn’t know who played on what side of the ball because of their general juice and enthusiasm for one another. I think that’s pretty rare on a lot of teams, but it’s not for this one.”

One of the leaders for the Dallas defense, Hooker, wanted to beat the team that drafted him 15th overall in 2017 and then, after deciding to decline the fifth-year option on his rookie contract, watched him walk in free agency after the 2020 season.

The Cowboys swooped in, signed Hooker, and put him straight into their safety rotation.

Now, the 26-year-old is one of the most important players on the Cowboys’ defense, playing 588 snaps and recording 43 tackles.

He came into Sunday night, looking to wreak havoc on his former team, and he did just that.

While he only finished with two tackles and one pass defensed, he made two other game-defining plays in the Cowboys rout of his former squad.

The first, coming at the 1:03 mark of the second quarter with the Colts trailing 14-13 and looking to take the lead into the locker room. Hooker stepped in front of a short Matt Ryan pass intended for Alex Pierce at the Dallas 48 and returned 26 yards to the Colts 26 to set the Cowboys up with a chance to increase the lead. They did just that only five plays later when Dak Prescott hit Michael Gallup for a 13-yard touchdown and an 8-point lead at halftime.

“Any one of us can make a play; that is how dangerous our defense is,” said Cowboys cornerback DaRon Bland, who had a pair of interceptions against the Colts.

Hooker’s second game-changing play came at the 13:46 mark of the fourth quarter when Colts tight end Moe Alie-Cox made a 6-yard catch and then fumbled on the hit from Cowboys linebacker Damone Clark. The ball bounced right to Hooker, who scooped it up and returned it 38 yards for the touchdown to push the Cowboys’ lead to 15.

“The defense set the tone with the takeaways,” said Hooker, whose scoop-and-score was the first touchdown of his career.

The fumble return opened the scoring floodgates, as the defense flexed its dominance. Dallas followed up Hooker’s big play with a pair of interceptions from DaRon Bland and three more touchdowns from the offense.

“It was definitely special today,” Hooker said. “I’m glad we came out here and dominated the way we wanted to. It just feels good to be able to get the win.”

If Hooker, and the rest of the Cowboys’ defense, continue to put pressure on offenses and create turnovers, then there are more victories ahead, with Houston, Tennessee, Philadelphia, Jacksonville, and Washington left on the schedule.

“We believe every week that we are gonna win,” Hooker said. “We’re dominant enough to be able to (keep) teams under 14 points, as far as up two scores. We feel like that once we get there, we have to capitalize on it, and that is what we have been lacking throughout this year. (Sunday) when we got up on them two scores, we just started creating turnovers, sacks, fumbles, and everything. That is how we want to be every week.”

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