Cowboys trying to tackle problems on defense

Posted Wednesday, Oct. 09, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
Taking a wrong turn After a respectable start in the first three games, the Cowboys’ defense has been shredded in the last two. A look at the numbers:
StatG 1-3G 4-5
PPG allowed18.340.5
YPG allowed341.0511.5
Pass YPG allowed274.7404.0
Rush YPG allowed66.3107.5
Turnovers forced73

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When the Dallas Cowboys unceremoniously fired Rob Ryan after last season and brought in Monte Kiffin to replace him, the hope was to return the defense to its dominant ways of its Doomsday past.

Through five games, the defense has been more gloom and doom for the 2-3 Cowboys.

The numbers are ugly while contributing to a two-game losing streak heading into Sunday’s NFC East showdown with the Washington Redskins (1-3) at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

• The Cowboys rank 28th in the league on defense, allowing 409.2 yards per game. They are on pace to allow 6,547 yards this season, which is much worse than the team-record 5,687 they allowed last season.

• They rank 31st in passing, allowing 326.4 yards per game. They have allowed three 400-yard passers, a first for the franchise in a single season. They are on pace to allow 5,222 passing yards this season, which would obliterate the team record of 3,928 they allowed in 1983.

• They have allowed 500-plus yards in back-to-back games, with the San Diego Chargers gaining 506 and the Denver Broncos 517.

• They have allowed 20 pass plays of 20 yards or more this season, including six in the season opener against the New York Giants.

The 73-year old Kiffin and father of the famed Tampa 2 scheme takes full responsibility for the woeful play.

He rejects any part of the narrative that quarterback Tony Romo blew the game against the Broncos Sunday with his late interception that led to the game-winning field goal in the 51-48 loss.

“I want to say this: People will say ‘Tony Romo throws the interception, and he can’t win the big one,’” Kiffin said. “He went toe-to-toe with one of the best ever in the game of football and [Peyton Manning] will be in the Hall of Fame. But don’t put that on [Romo]. You put that one on me, but don’t put that one on Tony Romo. We’ve got to play better.”

The bigger question is whether the Cowboys can play better, considering they have no real answers to why they are in this position in the first place — especially after playing pretty solidly on defense in the first three games.

The wheels began to fall off in the second half of the Chargers game. The Cowboys have given up scores on 13 of their past 16 possessions on defense and as many points (68) as they did in the first 3 1/2 games combined.

“It’s not a good feeling,” cornerback Brandon Carr added. “You come out the gates clicking on all cylinders and then to hit a lull like we did. Right now, we’re just trying to find some answers.”

The Cowboys feel blindsided by their troubles on defense. They believe in the scheme and believe in the players they have.

“I’m surprised,” cornerback Orlando Scandrick said. “I didn’t see this coming at all. We have a great group of players. We have a great scheme. We just need to adjust to it. Sometimes, we may be trying to do too much. Everybody needs to do their jobs, and we will be better off. I’m very disappointed.”

The Cowboys have been set back by injuries along the defensive line. End Anthony Spencer and tackle Jay Ratliff were supposed to be key components. Spencer has undergone season-ending knee surgery, and Ratliff has been on the physically unable to perform list since the start of the season. He was expected to be back next week, but owner Jerry Jones says the team will take it slow with him.

The Cowboys’ inability to rush the passer because of double teams on end DeMarcus Ware and tackle Jason Hatcher — neither has had a sack in the past two games — has affected the defense. No rush means no coverage in the secondary. It won’t get easier facing the Redskins and quarterback Robert Griffin III because of Griffin’s ability to pass and run.

“It doesn’t matter if you play Cover 2, single-high, Cover 8, Tokyo, Phoenix. You got to play the defense,” said Kiffin, who said he’s never seen his defense play this badly. “It just goes back to the players and playing the defense to your responsibility.”

That’s linebacker Sean Lee’s take on it. He was the first one to come out this week and call for the blame to fall on the defense, not Romo.

“It’s purely on us. There are plays to be made, and we are not making them,” Lee said. “Until we start making them, we are going to have the same results.”

Clarence E. Hill Jr. 817-390-7760 Twitter: @clarencehilljr

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Tuesday, September 02Full Scoreboard
Cincinnati0Delayed | Box
Baltimore0@theBallpark | TV: FSN-OH, MASN
Detroit1Bottom 3rd | Box
Cleveland2@theBallpark | TV: FSN-DET, STO
Boston7Top 4th | Box
NY Yankees1@theBallpark | TV: NESN, YES
Philadelphia0Bottom 4th | Box
Atlanta0@theBallpark | TV: CSN-PHI, SPSO
NY Mets5Top 4th | Box
Miami3@theBallpark | TV: SNY, FSN-FL
Toronto2Bottom 3rd | Box
Tampa Bay2@theBallpark | TV: SNET, Sun Sports
Milwaukee0Top 1st | Box
Chicago Cubs0@theBallpark | TV: FSN-WI, CSN-CHI+
LA Angels0Bottom 1st | Box
Houston0@theBallpark | TV: FSN-W, CSN-HOU
Texas0Bottom 1st | Box
Kansas City0@theBallpark | TV: FSN-SW, FSN-KC
Chicago WSox0Bottom 1st | Box
Minnesota0@theBallpark | TV: CSN-CHI, FSN-N
Pittsburgh0Top 1st | Box
St. Louis0@theBallpark | TV: ROOT-PIT, FSN-MW
San Francisco 9/2 8:40 PM ET
Colorado TV: CSN-BA, ROOT-RM
Seattle 9/2 10:05 PM ET
Washington 9/2 10:10 PM ET
Los Angeles TV: MASN 2, SportsNet LA
Arizona 9/2 10:10 PM ET
San Diego TV: FSN-AZ, FSN-SD
Full Scoreboard
Tuesday, September 02Full Scoreboard
No games today
Full Scoreboard
Week 1Full Scoreboard
Green Bay 8:30 PM ET
Seattle TV: NBC
New Orleans 1:00 PM ET
Atlanta TV: FOX
Cincinnati 1:00 PM ET
Baltimore TV: CBS
Buffalo 1:00 PM ET
Chicago TV: FOX
Washington 1:00 PM ET
Houston TV: FOX
Tennessee 1:00 PM ET
Kansas City TV: CBS
New England 1:00 PM ET
Miami TV: CBS
Oakland 1:00 PM ET
Jacksonville 1:00 PM ET
Philadelphia TV: CBS
Cleveland 1:00 PM ET
Pittsburgh TV: CBS
Minnesota 1:00 PM ET
St. Louis TV: FOX
San Francisco 4:25 PM ET
Dallas TV: FOX
Carolina 4:25 PM ET
Tampa Bay TV: FOX
Indianapolis 8:30 PM ET
Denver TV: NBC
NY Giants 7:10 PM ET
Detroit TV: ESPN
San Diego 10:20 PM ET
Arizona TV: ESPN
Full Scoreboard
Tuesday, September 02Full Scoreboard
No games today
Full Scoreboard