DENVER – The story of this game is written on the stat sheet, but Sean Lee spelled it out anyway, just to be clear.
"It's unacceptable, defensively, how we played and how we tackled. We got dominated," he said on Sunday evening.
It isn't unusual to see an NFL team lose a game. But, given their track record, it was a bit surprising to see the Cowboys get dominated, to use Lee's word, so thoroughly.
The Broncos outgained the Cowboys, 380 to 268, en route to their 42-17 win. They had more first downs, converted more third downs and obviously scored more points.
"It just felt like the entire game that we were working uphill," said Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones.
The same can't be said for the Denver ground game, which played a decidedly downhill game. The Broncos racked up 178 yards on the ground while averaging almost five yards per carry against a hapless Dallas defense.
"It was bad. The entire game was bad," Lee said. "It wasn't acceptable how we played. It wasn't acceptable how I played, as a leader. I have to find a way to step up in a game like that."
The loss was a complete departure from last week's season-opening win, which saw the same defense throttle the New York Giants to the tune of three total points – not to mention a measly 35 rushing yards.
Before kickoff, there had been cause for optimism that this defense could take advantage of the Broncos' inexperienced quarterback and unproven offensive line. And while the Cowboys did manage to create some pressure – including a DeMarcus Lawrence sack that led to their first touchdown – that was hardly the case.
"We're going to have to get back to work and start grinding," Lee said. "Because I thought we looked good the first week – second week, we come out and put up a performance like this. We're not where we need to be."
Lee and his unit will have an extra day to get there, given that the Cowboys don't play again until next Monday night. In the week-to-week grind of the NFL, though, Lee said they'll still be up against the clock
"You watch the film, you correct what you can correct. You take anything that was good – which wasn't much – and you improve it fast," he said.
If it's possible to find a silver lining, it might be this: the Cowboys aren't as bad as they looked on Sunday, as Lee can attest. But considering how much Sunday's game got away from them, the pressure will be on to fix the problems.
"We know how to play the right way. We've done it, last year. We did it the first game," Lee said. "But today we had a tough challenge and we didn't respond to it. We'll have to reload and get ready."