It doesn’t take much research to understand their situation. The Cowboys have lost two in a row as they begin the second half with two road games, first at Philadelphia on Sunday night, and then at Atlanta next week. Both took Dallas to the woodshed a year ago.
(We’re not counting the Cowboys’ 6-0 win in the meaningless season finale against the Eagles when both teams’ fates were sealed and Philly rested many of their starters.) The Cowboys went home; the Eagle won the Super Bowl.
The big question for Dallas, of course, is whether the offense will find itself. But just as equally pertinent: Will the defense rebound from a shaky performance in the loss to the Titans?
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Linebacker Jaylon Smith joined some of his teammates, including quarterback Dak Prescott, by confessing that he’s still “pissed off” by Monday’s loss. They hope to use that Sunday night against their NFC East rival.
“Are we going to fold or are we going to show up? There’s confidence that we control our own destiny because there’s times we’ve played like the best in the NFL and there’s times that we don’t,” Defensive tackle Antwaun Woods said. “We know what we need to do to handle business.”
Cowboys’ defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said Monday’s failures came down to a lack of execution, especially on several screens that turned into big first downs for the Titans, who converted 11 of 14 third downs. Marinelli dismissed the notion that his defense wore down, but acknowledge Tennessee’s long drives likely had an impact.
“What happens to you, when [they] convert third downs, you’re playing longer,” he said. “Now you’re playing maybe nine snaps in a row. That can wind you a little bit too. And they went hurry-up a little bit and did a good job with that. But there’s no reason to not be in shape. We hit a little snag there but we’re going to bounce back real well.”
If anything, Smith said, the defense lost an emotional edge after a quick start in which Dallas forced two fumbles but only had seven points to show for it.
“We started off electric and when the game settled down we allowed them to score too many points. That’s not something we’re accustomed to,” Smith said. “Now it’s about just getting it right. I was pissed off Monday night after the game, Tuesday morning. I’m pissed off now [Thursday afternoon]. Now it’s time to turn it on. Coming off a loss, you want to get a victory. I heard Zeke [Elliott] mention that this is a must-win game. It is. I would agree with him.”