DALLAS -- The Dallas Cowboys may be a game out of the lead in their division as a result of last Sunday's loss, but Coach Tom Landry came away from that game with the most positive statement yet about his team.
'Based on the way our defense has been improving,' Landry said Tuesday, 'I think we definitely have a chance for the playoffs. Our defense is on schedule.'
Early in the season the Dallas defense was a carbon copy of 1979 _ giving up big plays and allowing lightly regarded offenses to move up and down the field.
That has all changed the past few weeks, however, and the play last Sunday in a 17-10 loss to Philadelphia was the capper. The front four had an enjoyable day rushing the passer and defensive tackle Randy White was awesome.
'The defense will get tested this Sunday,' Landry said, referring to the San Diego Chargers. 'They may not look very good in this one game, but at least the foundation is there. Week in and week out I think they will play very well.
'And that was our major concern going into the season.'
Offense is another matter.
Although quarterback Danny White has been excellent, the running attack _ featuring Tony Dorsett and second-year fullback Ron Springs _ has been almost non-existent.
Springs, who moved Robert Newhouse out of the starting position this year, was bothered early by an ankle injury, and Dorsett is questionable for Sunday night's game because of bruised ribs.
'Springs is healthy,' Landry said, 'but he hasn't done real well yet. I haven't lost my hopes for him. I think he will be a good football player. He hasn't improved yet as a fullback, but I think he will do it in time.
'He just isn't where I thought he would be. The injury could have held him back.'
'Tony has been running fine,' said the coach. 'It's just a season so far that he hasn't done what he wants to do or what we want him to do. But it's not because he isn't working or trying or running hard. If he just keeps plugging along, things will come out all right.'
Landry said Dorsett would have to do 'a lot of healing,' in order to play against San Diego. If Dorsett does play against the Chargers he will wear a flak jacket.