The struggling defense hits a new low in the Cowboys loss to the Chicago Bears
By Matthew Postins
First and 10 is RattleandHumSports.com’s Cowboys wrap-up. Consider this an outline of the 10 most important things to come out of the previous game and how it related to the outcome. It’s analysis and opinion of each week’s game that goes beyond the box score. Today it’s First and 10 after the Cowboys’ 45-28 loss to the Chicago Bears.
Taking everything into account, this was the worst defensive performance of the year for the Cowboys. Dallas had a nearly healthy unit, including linebackers Sean Lee and Justin Durant. They were facing a backup quarterback in Josh McCown and a Bears team with a simmering quarterback controversy. The Cowboys defense laid a complete egg. The unit gave up 490 total yards, allowed McCown to throw for four touchdown passes and allowed the Bears to score on every meaningful possession of the game (don’t count the knee they had to take at the end of the game). Plus, the Cowboys needed the win to keep pace with the Eagles in the NFC East. Poorly-timed and poorly-played by the Cowboys.
A few numbers to keep in mind. Since the 2010 season the Cowboys are 7-9 in December and January. Since the start of the 2011 season the Cowboys are 18-2 against teams that are below .500 and 5-20 against teams that are .500 or better.
The Cowboys played the matchup on offense. The Bears had the worst run defense in the NFL and DeMarco Murray torched it for 146 yards on 18 carries. But Murray didn’t reach that magic 20 carry mark where the Cowboys don’t lose. But it was the right thing to do to play the matchup.
The Brandon Carr holding call stemmed the tide of any potential Cowboys comeback. His holding call negated a Cowboys interception and allowed the Bears to score to make it a 35-14 game. Just to add insult to it all, the Bears made the two-point conversion on the drive. They certainly didn’t need it.
Alshon Jeffery’s catch at the end of the first half was the perfect cap on a horrible final two minutes for the Cowboys. First they go three-and-out on offense, with Jason Witten dropping a pass and DeMarco Murray out of position on another pass. Then Devin Hester returns the punt into solid field position for Chicago. Then Josh McCown drives the Bears down for the touchdown on what amounted to a Hail Mary pass. The Cowboys completely mismanaged that portion of the game. One of these days I’m going to do research on the Cowboys in the final two minutes of the first half and see if they’re as inefficient as I think they are.
I don’t agree with the George Selvie roughing the passer penalty in the second quarter. I’m all for protecting the quarterback, but that’s the type of tackle we’re taught to make as kids. Selvie saw an opportunity to make a play and he took it because that’s what he was taught since grade school. Letter of the rule? Sure. Do I agree with it? No.
For those who want to blame this loss on Tony Romo, get a life. He threw three touchdown passes. The Cowboys did the smart thing running the ball. Sure, Romo wasn’t in sync on a few passes. But this loss was squarely on the defense. The Bears had 14 more plays than the Cowboys because the Dallas defense couldn’t get the Bears off the field.
And if you’re looking to the future, Romo may be the only think keeping these Cowboys from slipping into Dave Campo territory two or three years down the road.
I have to extend my apologies for endorsing Monte Kiffin’s hire earlier this year. I really thought it would turn out better than this. But aside from Jason Hatcher and Sean Lee, I don’t see any Cowboy playing appreciably better than a year ago. Jerry Jones is completely justified in firing Kiffin at season’s end. He hasn’t reached this unit. But the real issue is where the Cowboys go from here, because they just feel lost on defense right now and I don’t trust Jones to do the right things to fix it.
I don’t know what Josh McCown finally figured out, but good for him. He’s been bouncing around the NFL for a decade. He had chances to start and make his home somewhere but just never caught on. What he has done in Jay Cutler’s place – 13 touchdown passes, 1 interception and a 66 percent completion rate – is going to make him a desired commodity this offseason.
Yes the weather stunk, but the Bears did it right honoring Mike Ditka Monday night. He is most associated with the Bears, but Ditka is woven into Cowboys lore, as well. He spent his final four seasons as a player with the Cowboys, during which he won a championship in Super Bowl VI. He spent nine years as an assistant coach under Tom Landry before taking over the Chicago Bears as head coach. So Ditka played for George Halas and Landry, and coached under Landry. We should all be lucky enough to have that kind of apprenticeship.