IRVING, Texas – The tale of the tape was not a kind one for linebacker Bruce Carter.
In his Monday evening press conference, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett maintained that the coaching staff did not bench Carter during Sunday's 30-21 loss to San Diego. But having reviewed the game film, Garrett had some pointed criticisms for his third-year linebacker.
"Bruce had some problems covering their guys," Garrett said. "Two of their touchdowns were scored with (Danny) Woodhead on him, and he didn't cover him that well, and there some other things going on in our other coverages that he didn't do a good enough job on."
The Cowboys turned to Ernie Sims, particularly as a second linebacker in their nickel formation, following Woodhead's second touchdown at Carter's expense. The move raised questions of a potential benching in favor of the more veteran Sims, which Garrett and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin downplayed.
"We wanted to give Ernie Sims some chances to come play, particularly in that nickel package, so a combination of those two things. Bruce was also dealing with a little bit of a foot injury in the second part of that game," Garrett said. "So we mixed those two guys in, gave Ernie some chances, and we've just got to get better there. Bruce has been a good cover linebacker for us, and he'll be a good cover linebacker for us again."
If it wasn't a benching against the Chargers, though, it could turn into one against the Broncos. Asked if Sims would remain in place in the Cowboys' nickel package going forward, Garrett said he'd have an eye on it this week.
"We'll continue the evaluation," he said. "We'll give both chances as the week goes on and make that determination toward game time."
Problems with coverage come as a bit of a surprise for Carter. The North Carolina product was billed as a strong pass defender thanks to his above average speed at the linebacker spot. It was also a talking point in the offseason that Carter would be returning to a familiar scheme from his college days.
"He just didn't play to his capabilities, and one of the best things he does is he covers guys – he's a very good athlete, and you have to use good technique to do that, you have to be sound fundamentally to do that," Garrett said. "They made some good plays, there's no question about that – Philip threw the ball very well, Woodhead ran good routes, and all that. It's a challenging situation to be in. But he's capable of covering those guys well -- he just didn't get it done."
Garrett said the solution is to address the problems from the film in practice. But he made another point in the form of an oft-cited maxim about football defense. Defenders are supposed to have short memories -- something Garrett said Carter struggled with, particularly in his defense of the diminutive Woodhead.
"He wasn't playing aggressively as he normally plays, and sometimes when a guy makes plays on you, you get shaken a little bit," he said. "We keep talking about going on to the next play, regardless of the what the result is – he didn't do that well enough in the ball game."