Dallas Cowboys

Missed tackles and mea culpas: Cowboys’ young linebacker calls it ‘poor performance’

It was unlike any game in Leighton Vander Esch’s young Dallas Cowboys’ career.

The second-year linebacker did not have a good game in Sunday’s 34-24 loss to the Green Bay Packers and he didn’t mince his words.

“Poor performance by me. I’ve got to make the plays, I’ve got to make the tackles. Simply put,” Vander Esch said. “Just bad footwork and bad tackling. Those are tackles I shouldn’t miss and I’m going to focus on that this week in practice.”

But Vander Esch, who shared the team lead with linebacker Jaylon Smith with nine combined tackles, took some solace in the second-half performance in which the defense held Green Bay to 117 yards.

“This is the beginning of October. There’s still a lot of football left,” he said. “When we were down a lot in this game there was still a lot of football left and we came back and fought. I love the spirit of this team. We stick together through it all and I know we’re going to use this as a growing time and a building time for us to get closer to each other.”

Smith defended his teammate.

“For us, it’s about being together,” Smith said. “We’re human, we’re going to make mistakes. It’s all about being a one-timer. Never make that same mistake again. So we’re all going into this week and evaluate and see what we can all do better.”

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Stefan Stevenson has been covering sports for the Star-Telegram since 1997. He spent five years covering TCU athletics, which included two BCS bowls, two trips to the college World Series and the move to the Big 12. He has covered the Texas Rangers since 2014 and started reporting on the Dallas Cowboys in 2016.