ARLINGTON, Texas – Every Dallas Cowboys defender had the same mystified expression on his face – and understandably so.
The Cowboys’ much-maligned defense went into halftime having allowed three points and 132 yards of offense Sunday against Green Bay. Two hours later, they were addressing the issue of how they had allowed 301 second half yards and 34 second half points to the Matt Flynn-led Green Bay offense.
“Anytime you have a meltdown like that in the second half…you’re always asking what happened,” said Brandon Carr. “But we’ll know tomorrow, watching film. At the end of the day, you have to find a way to win your matchup — you have to find a way to get the job done.”
The Dallas defense dropped the ball in that regard just six days after surrendering 45 points to Chicago. The adjustments the Cowboys hoped to make after that blowout seemed to have taken effect in the first half, but they fell by the wayside as the Packers roared back.
Few will take more heat for that than the Cowboys’ veterans. While the Dallas linebacker corps completely reshuffled as a result of injuries, veteran players failed to step up. Jason Hatcher failed to post a tackle, while DeMarcus Ware finished with one assisted tackle.
“The quarterback threw the ball pretty quick, which was a good thing, but we’ve got to figure out a way to get DeMarcus in there more,” said Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones. “I would have thought he would be more of a factor in the game tonight, as well as Hatcher.”
Ware said during the week he needed to regain his typical form after what has been a disappointing season. Faced with such a disappointing performance, he said the Cowboys can only hope to correct the issues for the last two games.
“I’m always the same person. I go out there and play…I made some effective plays,” he said. “But at the end of the day, we need to get out, get off on third down, and we didn’t do that.”
For the time being, the Cowboys can only hope to push past another setback and try to find some answers.
“One of the toughest losses in my short NFL career — it was tough, man,” said Barry Church.
Assessing the Damage
Just what the Cowboys don’t need, and exactly what they’re already familiar with – more injury problems.
The defensive line couldn’t stay healthy in the opening weeks of the season, and now it’s the linebackers’ turn. Sean Lee missed the loss to Green Bay with the neck injury he suffered against Chicago. Fellow starter Bruce Carter also missed with a hamstring injury of his own.
That in itself is bad enough, but the Cowboys lost two more linebackers to injury against Green Bay, when Justin Durant aggravated his hamstring and Ernie Sims injured his hip.
“Honestly, I’ve never seen this before – that’s four top linebackers that’s out of the game,” Durant said.
Durant seemed primed for a big day after making a few nifty plays in the early going. But he was relegated to the bench before the end of the first quarter when he tweaked the same hamstring that’s been bothering him since the Nov. 10 loss to New Orleans.
Sims was the next to go when he appeared to hurt his hip tackling Eddie Lacy on the final play of the first half. He received X-Rays during the second half and will undergo an MRI on Monday.
“They told me I’m going to find out more tomorrow when I get the MRI,” he said.
The injuries left the Cowboys with two rookies, DeVonte Holloman and Cameron Lawrence, along with first-year linebacker Kyle Wilber. The trio combined for nine tackles in the loss.
“Those young guys went in there, they played hard,” Durant said. “I thought they did a solid job, we just couldn’t get it done at the end.”
The late-game collapse overshadows what would have been a leading storyline had the Cowboys won – another huge performance from Dan Bailey.
The Cowboys kicker had his best performance of the season, as he nailed five field goals – three of them from 47 yards away or further – to help the Cowboys build a formidable lead. The five field goals gave him 85 for his career, which pushed him past Chris Boniol (81) for second-best in team history.
“Obviously today points were a premium. It’s just too bad we didn’t have more than they did at the end of the game,” Bailey said.
No one could blame Bailey for that fact. With five field goals and 18 total points against Green Bay, he upped his point total on the season to 97. More impressively, he improved his accuracy rating on the season to 19-of-21 – 90 percent.
In fact, Bailey hasn’t missed since the Sept. 29 loss to San Diego, which was a 56-yard kick. That track record is enough to given anyone confidence Bailey might have had a game-winner in him, had the Cowboys gotten him into position.
“There’s a minute and a half left and we had a chance to win the game, so we’ve been in those situations before,” Bailey said. “I had all the confidence in the world that we were going to go down and put the final points on the board. Sometimes it doesn’t work out your way.”
Here are some more notes from Sunday’s loss to Green Bay:
Dez Bryant finished today’s game with 11 catches for 153 yards and a touchdown. His 11 catches marked his third double-digit reception game and were third in a game in his career – 13 at Baltimore (10/14/12) and 12 vs. Cleveland (11/18/12).
Bryant’s 153 yards gave him his 10th career 100-yard game and were good for second in his career. He is the 10th Dallas Cowboy with 10-plus 100-yard games.
For the season, Bryant has 1,061 yards, his second career 1,000-yard season, the 24th season in which a Cowboy reached the 1,000-yard barrier and the 30th time a Cowboys player crossed the 1,000-yard mark. Bryant is the ninth different Cowboy with multiple 1,000-yard seasons.
For his career Bryant has 38 touchdown catches to tie Terrell Owens for eighth in team history.
Murray’s 134 yards gave him his third 100-yard game of the season and the seventh of his career. The 134 yards were sixth in a game in his career.
With his 100-yard outing last week, it was the second time in Murray’s career he had back-to-back 100-yard games.
Murray’s rushing score today was his eighth of the season – the most by a Cowboy since Marion Barber had 10 in 2007.
With his 25-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter, Jason Witten broke a tie with Tony Hill to record the third-most touchdowns in team history. He has 52.