FRISCO, Texas — Fresh off an ugly 28-16 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on the road, all three coordinators for the Dallas Cowboys took the podium on Monday to discuss what went wrong and what went right in the loss.
Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenhiemer and special teams coordinator John Fassel all took time with the media today. Here were the highlights from those conversations.
Tale of Two Halves
After a start to the season that had Cowboys fans believing that the run defense issues from 2022 had been solved, the defense gave up 181 yards on the ground in the first half – the most for the franchise in a first half since 1991. Following halftime, Arizona only mustered 41 more rushing yards, but the overwhelming totals in the first half played a huge role in the final result.
"It was a tale of two halves," defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. "First half, just so poorly in explosive plays – 40 yards, 50 yards. We just didn't play with that relentless energy that we had gotten grown to know and appreciate about our group."
Quinn sees a good opportunity moving forward to bounce back and learn from a disappointing performance against the Cardinals, as he said it was one that has stuck with the defense in the hours since.
"Sometimes you just have a performance that you're not pleased with at all," he said. "When you walked around our locker room, you had a lot of pissed off people and they should be. We were not up to the standard that we had set for ourselves. When you're going through a difficult performance, you do grow from them. I would love to say you learn from 40-0, but that ain't the truth. You gotta have some adversity and come out the other end to show what you're capable of. These guys are a warrior crew and they will respond like crazy."
When asked postgame about red zone issues, Dak Prescott said that Dallas' inefficiency inside the 20-yard line was the reason for the loss after scoring just one touchdown on five trips. With Dalton Schultz and Ezekiel Elliott no longer available to help carry the load in short yardage situations, the Cowboys need someone to step up and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer feels confident that someone will.
"We have terrific players," he said. "We just have to execute better, we have to coach better. When the plays are there to be made, we have to do those things. It'll be a big emphasis for us this week. We'll get it started early and rep the hell out of it. The way our players are wired, they're gonna bounce back and accept that challenge and I think we'll play really well down there."
Behind the Scenes on Trevon Diggs' Injury
Monday was the first time that Quinn was able to publicly discuss the season-ending injury that Trevon Diggs suffered last Thursday in practice, and he relayed the emotion that he felt for Diggs and his teammates in that moment.
"There's a player behind that helmet," Quinn said. "I think Tre was realizing in that moment that he wasn't gonna be able to do what he wanted to do this year. He realized that it was a cool moment with these guys that he had to miss out on. In that moment, I wasn't thinking 'next man up' I was thinking about the player, the dude and who he is. It hurt him a lot, and it hurt a lot of the guys too."
Brandon Aubrey has begun his NFL career a perfect 10-for-10 on field goal attempts as he has cemented himself as the sure-footed kicker for the Cowboys very early in his rookie season. While his success grows, his confidence and demeanor remain the same, according to special teams coordinator John Fassel, as he looks to build upon his great start in the weeks to come.
"He had three field goals in this last game, and the 49-yarder I was really excited about," Fassel said. "It was one of those ranges where you have to make that kick, but it's still a long kick. In his brain, he treats every kick like a 49-yard kick. He's treating them all the same, which I think is really healthy for a kicker. Just keep it going. His confidence is the same it's been the whole time. I haven't seen him waver at all with confidence or arrogance or anything. He's just a consistent guy, and I think that will bode well for us as we push into the season."
Belichick Spy Mission?
A lot of eyes will be on Ezekiel Elliott this week as he makes his return to AT&T Stadium, but it will also be a return for quarterback Will Grier, who was released by the Cowboys after the preseason before serving a short stint with the Bengals and signing to the Patriots active roster.
With the Cowboys' offensive system still fresh on Grier's mind, Schottenheimer is making a conscious effort to mix things up with signals going into the matchup with Bill Belichick.
"Those are things we monitor every week, but obviously Will and Zeke know where the bones are buried," Schottenheimer said. "Those are things you talk about. We certainly have more than one hand signal for most of our core concepts, and sometimes you can use it to your advantage. Everybody does it. You get a player that's played somewhere, you bring them in to talk about different things, and you're very selective about how much you put into it. I'm excited to see Will, but I'm sure he's being interrogated. It'll be a lot of late nights with the defensive coaching staff."