Don't Overlook Real Reason For Loss

Well, I'll tell you when:
Twenty-four points is not enough when your defense is on the field for 70 plays.
Twenty-four points is not enough when you give up 161 yards rushing, the second most in the past 38 games, and only the second time someone has rushed for more than 100 yards in the past 22 games, causing defensive end Marcus Spears to say, "That's a tough pill for us to swallow."
Twenty-four is not enough when the opposing quarterback completes 65 percent of his passes.
Twenty-four is not enough when the opposing offense is able to score points on six of seven possessions from the start of the second quarter until only needing to kneel down on the final possession with the Cowboys plum out of timeouts.
Twenty-four is not enough when the opposing team hogs the ball for 38 minutes, 9 seconds - nearly 64 percent of the game - Spears giving in, saying, "Washington was better than us yesterday."

just need something to worry about with the Cowboys sitting 3-1 after the first quarter of the season, a half-game out of first in not only the NFC East, but the entire NFC since the Giants (3-0) are the only undefeated team left in the conference, then worry some about this defense.

Already twice in four games opponents have scored at least 24 points on the Cowboys, and I realize the Eagles really only scored 23 on the defense since the end-zone fumble recovery and the interception, along with the bogus interference call, led to another 14. Nevertheless, that's giving up more than 24 in half the games so far.

That pace does not compare favorably to last year when the Cowboys gave up more than 24 points five times, and one of those in that final game when not playing all their starters the entire way in the 27-6 loss at Washington.

This defense just has to play better, bottom line, and the darn thing about it, it has, holding Cleveland to just 10 points and Green Bay on the road to just nine before giving up the business-decision touchdown at the end of the game while up 27-9 and milking the clock.

But Sunday, before 63,462 growling folks by the end at Texas Stadium, the Cowboys didn't. They turned Jason Campbell into a Pro Bowler. Once again they allowed Santana to continue his evil ways against them. And on top of that, they were rocked by Clinton Portis.

To me, though, here is what is most troubling about what took place on defense, and this according to Phillips: "Guys were trying to make the play instead of playing their responsibility first. We have them play their responsibility and then get to the football, that's what everybody has to do, and we had several instances of guys trying to make the play instead of playing their responsibility, and that causes a domino effect at times."

In other words, gap control.

That's what happens when you don't stay in the moment, when you start thinking about winning instead of thinking about winning that play. That's what happens when you get behind and start pressing. It's just human nature to say, "I'm going to fix this and start freelancing to become the hero." Boys will be boys.

And that is what I've been saying the Cowboys must guard against this season, staying in the moment of this play, this series, this game and not worrying about the big picture. They've been saying all along how they must take this one game at a time, because they absolutely can't allow one loss to multiply, especially when playing the 0-4 Bengals at home next Sunday.

Now we'll see, and it's not easy when everyone and their brother want to put you in that Super Bowl-or-bust guillotine.

Bradie James got a little testy in the locker room Monday afternoon, and good for him, after being peppered with questions about the loss lingering, about the team losing confidence, about maybe how they started believing they were the best team in the league.

"The thing is now if we lose a game, it's the end of the world, you want us to press the panic button," James reasoned. "We won't press the panic button. Right now you learn from your mistakes and rack up as many wins as you can. It's not going to get me down or this team down because we lost one game.

"We lose one game, it's not the end of the world."

Nor should it be.

But Bradie knows the score here in Dallas. The Cowboys simply can't lose a game to a team playing better than them that day. Impossible. Blame must be affixed to somebody or some thing. And how strange to blame this one on not running the ball enough.

At least, though, to me we have the answer in the end to the troubling question of when's 24 points not enough?

W  hen you give up 26.

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