ARLINGTON, Texas – On the heels of another woeful performance, Jaylon Smith had a blunt assessment of how the Cowboys' defense handled itself Monday night.
"It's bulls. It's bullsh shouldn't happen," Smith said.
Specifically, Smith was referring to Kenyan Drake's exclamation point, the 69-yard streak to the end zone – virtually untouched – that turned this game from lopsided into a total laugher later in the fourth quarter.
The touchdown was completely unnecessary in deciding a winner, as the Cardinals pulled away in a 38-10 win. But for a defense that has routinely struggled to contain big plays, it was just another example of how far they have to go.
"We're going to evaluate the film, we're going to correct it, and we're going to move with a sense of urgency," Smith said. "That's what we must do in the situation that we're in right now, losing four games."
The disheartening thing is that the Cowboys actually seemed to show some improvement in the early going of this weeknight affair.
Despite boasting a boatload of star power on offense, the Cardinals were forced to punt on their first three possessions of the game. Kyler Murray was repeatedly harried into scrambling or throwing the ball away for much of the early going.
It's even fair to say that consecutive fumbles by Ezekiel Elliott put the defense in adverse situations – though Smith was quick to say he didn't want to hear that.
"When we strap up and go out on that turf or on that grass we have to get a stop -- three or less -- and we're not doing that," he said. "So how I look at it, it just does not matter what the offense is doing, it doesn't matter."
If that was a slow drip, it turned into a full-on leak shortly after. After a Cowboys punt with 4:53 until halftime, Murray needed just one snap to make it a three-score game, as he lofted an 80-yard bomb to Christian Kirk for an uncontested touchdown.
Combined with Drake's run, it gave the Cardinals two 50+ yard touchdowns on the night – and three in the last three games, including Odell Beckham's infamous end around in Week 4.
"We have to respond to adversity and we didn't do that tonight -- defense, we didn't do that," Smith said
The Cowboys have now allowed at least 34 points to all but one opponent. Their six-game point total of 218 is tied for the fourth-worst in the history of the NFL. To add insult to injury, the only defenses that have been worse all played before the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
Perhaps they can turn it around. They got Leighton Vander Esch back from injury on Monday night, and he chipped in three tackles. Randy Gregory can return to the roster this coming week, and there's optimism that Chidobe Awuzie can come off of injured reserve soon.
Asked why he has hope about the group after the game, Vander Esch was emphatic.
"No matter what our record is, no matter how we are playing, we have energy. We have hope," he said. "We have that drive every single week to go out there and get it done. We are just not doing it. So, I don't know what it is, but we've got to fix it."
It's undeniable that defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and his players are facing many challenges in this bizarre season. But it's a season that's nearing the midpoint. And until the Cowboys find a way to clean up their defense, it's hard to find much optimism for cleaning up their record.