ARLINGTON — Before we indict and assail the dreadfully inept Dallas Cowboys’ defense, would somebody please answer something for me?Who the heck is Sterling Moore? Who’s Corvey Irvin? And Cameron Lawrence?And why were they all on the field for the defense in the fading minutes Sunday, clad in Cowboys jerseys, attempting to stop the suddenly unstoppable Matt Flynn?That’s not meant as an excuse. Every NFL team has to overcome injuries. The Cowboys’ former defensive coordinator also saw his unit riddled by injuries last season, yet owner Jerry Jones still found it in his holiday heart to fire Rob Ryan shortly after Christmas. Sunday’s 37-36 defeat, therefore — squandering a 23-point lead to the Green Bay Packers — was inexcusable. The five times that the Packers touched the football when it mattered in the second half Sunday, they scored five touchdowns. Three came on undeterred marches of 80 yards. Ahead 26-3 at the intermission and seemingly with victory clearly in sight, the playoff-contending Cowboys imploded before our very eyes.Seated at his locker after the game, Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr, still wearing his uniform, at first said he had nothing to say.“Right now words really have no effect,” Carr said. “Complete debacle, second half. We’ve just got to get better.”Time is running short, however. The Cowboys could have regained the lead in the NFC East and stacked the odds in their favor for the regular season’s final two weeks. Instead, the pass-happy Cowboys offense settled for field goals, in lieu of touchdowns, in an otherwise dominating first half. And then the Packers took the second-half kickoff and scored in four plays.When backup quarterback Flynn, filling in for the injured Aaron Rodgers, marched Green Bay 80 yards to another score on the Packers’ next possession, the Cowboys’ lead was down to 12 points.Sirens were sounding. “We executed in the first half,” Carr continued. “The second half was just a complete debacle. They took advantage of us. We couldn’t get off the field once again.”It was far from the first time this season, in other words, that the Cowboys appeared to be defenseless. And while the defense didn’t appear to be as overmatched as it did against the Saints, nor as discombobulated as it did last Monday against the Bears, the result was just as devastating.“It was tough,” defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said. “It’s like every game seems like it’s been tough.“Boy, we felt so good at halftime. It’s 26-3 and their quarterback is kind of reeling a little bit, and we gave them some good looks and stuff. We just couldn’t hold on the second half.”Linebackers Ernie Sims and Justin Durant were both injured during the game.And while Kiffin admitted, “We had some young guys in there trying to play linebacker,” the Cowboys defense got virtually no help from veteran linemen Jason Hatcher and DeMarcus Ware. The official stat sheet showed one assisted tackle — one! — between the two of them.Cornerback Moore, if you Google him, was an undrafted free agent who went to SMU. Journeyman defensive tackle Irvin has played with four NFL teams in four years.Why doesn’t Owner Jones have better backups? That’s a good question. Maybe someone can ask the $108 million quarterback?Some of the Cowboys’ planned backups on defense, however, are also injured. Kiffin is having to play former practice squad guys and midweek free agent pickups. It hasn’t been a pretty sight. As the game ticked towards its conclusion Sunday, the Cowboys found themselves with their defense on the field, trying to save the afternoon. A reporter asked head coach Jason Garrett if he considered letting the Packers score after Green Bay’s Eddie Lacy ran for a first down at the Cowboys’ 1-yard line with 1:34 left. Lacy dove into the end zone on the next play.“We did let them score,” Garrett said. And there’s the problem. You can’t tell the difference when the Cowboys are trying to play defense and when they’re just faking it.
Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton