Being linked to the Detroit Lions is usually never a good thing, and that holds true for the Dallas Cowboys.
This year’s Cowboys team joined the 2012 Lions as the only two teams in NFL history to lose consecutive games at home despite scoring at least 30 points in both contests, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
That’s a dubious distinction and, in a twist of irony, Scott Linehan was the offensive coordinator of both teams.
But it speaks more to the defense’s shortcomings and the Cowboys are reeling going into the bye week. The Cowboys are 2-3 going into it after a 35-31 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday and a 35-30 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 4.
This is a defense that hasn’t gotten a takeaway in three straight games; that has given up 160-plus yards on the ground the past two weeks; and hasn’t been able to lock down early double-digit leads.
“Well, we didn’t play well enough in the game yesterday,” coach Jason Garrett said on Monday of his defensive efforts.
“If you look at the game, they had seven possessions and they scored four touchdowns and kicked a field goal. We forced them to punt twice. We didn’t take the ball away from them. They ran the ball effectively. They threw the ball effectively. They made the big play when they needed to.
“For the most part we didn’t play well enough. When they got down in the red zone they cashed in and scored touchdowns. We simply need to play better. Obviously, they challenge you a lot of different ways. Their quarterback [Aaron Rodgers] is outstanding. He’s a rare guy. We all know that, but we didn’t play well enough in the game.”
The Cowboys’ defense has been shaky enough that even owner Jerry Jones wondered if the team should have milked the clock even more at the end of the game.
The Cowboys scored a go-ahead touchdown with 1:13 left in the game, which proved to be more than enough time for Rodgers to march the Packers down the field 75 yards for the game-winning score.
The two plays that Jones even second-guessed in the minutes afterward were a second-and-2 play from the Green Bay 11 that quarterback Dak Prescott threw incomplete to Dez Bryant. A run in that situation could have forced the Packers to use their final timeout, or it would have burned more time off the clock.
On the next play, Prescott scored on an 11-yard run. Maybe he could have slid at the 1-yard line to run even more time off the clock. But, as Garrett made it clear, scoring a touchdown is never a guarantee in the NFL.
Plus, the Cowboys did their best to run time off the clock in a drive that lasted 17 plays and 8:43.
“The essence of it is you need to score a touchdown first, so you’ve got to give yourself a chance to do that,” Garrett said. “One of the best things we did in the game, we were down in the red zone four times and we scored four touchdowns. The best way to combat that team and that offense is to make sure you score touchdowns and we did that.
“I thought we did a good job maximizing the opportunities throughout the game to score points. The opportunities were limited. Again, obviously you’d like to bleed it all the way down, but line one is to score a touchdown. We were able to do that in that situation.”
It just left the game in the hands of a Cowboys defense that hasn’t shown much promise of late, particularly with All-Pro linebacker Sean Lee (hamstring) sidelined.
Nobody in the locker room pointed fingers, but it’s clear the defense let the team down yet again. Thirty points should be good enough to get a win.
“We don’t finger-point in this locker room. We’re a family,” running back Ezekiel Elliott said. “When we get down, they’re going to pick us up. When they’re down, it’s our job to pick them up.
“We’ve just got to take this bye week, get a little bit of time off, regroup and get ready for the rest of the season.”