It’s hard to blame the Dallas Cowboys’ defense too much for Sunday’s loss.
The defense held the Packers to 14 points through three quarters, forcing them to punt on five consecutive possessions at one point. And the Packers didn’t pull away until the end with two late touchdown drives to seal their 28-7 victory at Lambeau Field.
But the defense knows it has to do more than turn in what most would consider a solid performance for most of the day. With Tony Romo injured and the offense sputtering behind Matt Cassel, the Cowboys need game-changing plays.
Once again, though, the defense lacked that signature play. They didn’t have a takeaway for the eighth time this season, and allowed the Packers to convert half their third downs.
“I don’t know, man, that’s one of the upsetting parts,” defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford said. “We have the guys and we have the talent on this team to make those kinds of plays, and it just hasn’t happened for us. It’s kind of been a bad luck year for us, and we need to turn it around.”
Crawford shouldered the blame for one particular play that could have altered the outcome, and possibly kept the Cowboys’ slim playoff hopes alive.
With Green Bay clinging to a 14-7 lead midway through the fourth quarter, the Packers faced a third-and-9 from the Dallas 48. The Cowboys brought an all-out blitz, and Aaron Rodgers opted to keep it himself.
Rodgers went up the middle, avoiding a tackle by Crawford, and gained 11 yards for the first down. Five plays later, on a second-and-25, the Packers put the game out of reach on a 30-yard touchdown scamper by James Starks.
“I missed the tackle,” Crawford said, shaking his head about the third-down play. “I messed up. I missed the tackle. There’s nothing I can say different.”
Crawford wasn’t the only Cowboys defender who struggled in containing the Packers’ rushing attack, as missed tackles were prominent all day.
A week after holding Washington to 73 total rushing yards, Dallas allowed a season-high 230 rushing yards to Green Bay. The Packers, behind Eddie Lacy and Starks, simply wore down the Cowboys’ defense.
The Packers had 111 of their rushing yards in the fourth quarter, including Lacy rushing for all 38 yards on their final offensive series to make it 28-7.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett admitted the defense may have been worn down by the end. Green Bay dominated in time of possession 37:48 to 22:12.
“Our guys ... were on the field way too much, and they are part of it,” Garrett said. “The defense has to get themselves off the field. The offense has to stay on the field.”
Lacy and Starks proved to be too tough a 1-2 punch for the Cowboys’ defense in the end. The Packers averaged more than 5 yards a carry, with Lacy gaining 124 yards on 24 carries and Starks adding 71 yards on 11 carries.
“Eddie Lacy was a big back and he carried the ball real well tonight,” said defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who registered his fifth sack in the past five games.
“It was just all about us tackling, wrapping up, gang-tackling. … It’s on us to come out and get the job done and we didn’t do that today. Hats off to them.”
In the end, it served as another disappointing day for the defense. They didn’t play badly, but they didn’t play great either. That’s just the kind of season it’s been for them.
“We fought till the end,” defensive end Jeremy Mincey said. “It all boils down to execution and preparation. We just didn’t execute to the capacity I know we can or are capable of.”