IRVING -- Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is not in the best of spirits these days.
His defense is without five starters and is playing its worst football of the season.
It has caused him more than few sleepless nights heading into Sunday's crucial game at Cincinnati, and he is no longer walking around with his usual demeanor.
He knows that the defense must be better, starting Sunday, if the Cowboys (6-6) are going to keep their playoffs hopes alive.
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He's said it's on them to get the job done, regardless of injuries.
Safety Barry Church, linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter and defensive end Kenyon Coleman are out of the season. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff will miss his third consecutive game with a groin injury. He has played in only six games this season.
"I was beat down every way you can be beaten," Ryan said. "When teams are running the ball on you and throwing it with success, it's not fun to be a defensive coordinator.
"We haven't even played good the last three weeks, and that's on everybody. This is a great opportunity for us. We know it's a huge game."
Guard Nate Livings returned to practice Friday and will play Sunday against Cincinnati after missing Thursday with a sore knee.
It's a reunion of sorts for Livings, who played the first six seasons of his career in Cincinnati before signing a five-year, $19 million free-agent contract with the Cowboys in the off-season.
Livings said he thought he was going back to the Bengals and was on the phone with their offensive line coach before finally accepting the deal to join the Cowboys. The move was a fresh start and put him closer to his Lake Charles, La., home. He played at LSU.
"It's nothing personal to nobody," Livings said. "I was there [Cincinnati] six years and put it behind me when I came to Dallas. I've moved on."
Miles Austin's disappearance from the offense has followed Dez Bryant's ascent. While Bryant has 29 catches for 475 yards and six touchdowns in the past four games, Austin has 10 receptions for 136 yards and one touchdown.
"I think Miles made really a couple of signature plays in the game the other day, where he had a long third down that he came up and ran the drag route and really made a good run after the catch," coach Jason Garrett said Friday. "Obviously, he scored the touchdown that was big for us later in the ballgame. Sometimes the ball goes elsewhere, based on the coverage they're playing, the plays we call. But he's doing a good job taking advantage of the opportunities that he gets."
He isn't Pacman any longer.
Bengals cornerback Adam Jones has a 6-year-old daughter. He has regrets. But by all accounts, Jones is making the most of his third opportunity.
"Adam?" Bengals coach Marvin Lewis replied Wednesday when asked how "Pacman" Jones was faring in Cincinnati. "Pacman got left in Dallas or wherever. Adam's doing fine. He's obviously turned his life around in a lot of ways, and it's fun to see him as a dad, and doing the things he's doing here."
Jones' off-field problems are well documented. He spent two seasons in Tennessee before being suspended for the 2007 season, and he lasted only one year with the Cowboys after they traded for him.
He played nine games in Dallas, missing six games for a violation of the league's player conduct policy for a scuffle with a team bodyguard at a Dallas hotel. He sat out another with an injury.
"I love [Cowboys owner] Jerry [Jones] with all my heart," Adam Jones said. "I'm not going to get into what I don't like about [the Cowboys], but it's not about Jerry. He's done a lot for me.
"I'm a Bengal and I would like to stay a Bengal for the rest of my career. But we'll see how that goes. I'm playing hard and on Sunday I'll have a double chip on my shoulder."
Clarence E. Hill Jr.