SAN DIEGO – It seemed telling that, following Danny Woodhead's second receiving touchdown of the afternoon against Dallas, Bruce Carter was pulled from the field.
Carter was assigned the task of covering the diminutive tailback heading into Sunday's 30-21 loss to the Chargers, but he was quickly replaced by Ernie Sims when Woodhead found paydirt a second time.
"I've just got to stay on top. Woodhead got out – he ran a great route, and the ball was placed perfectly," Carter said. "It was a great throw and catch, but I've got to stay on top."
Many people would call that a benching, but defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is not among them. Kiffin said the Cowboys' coaching staff rotated players throughout the defense, and Carter's situation was no different than the rotation of defensive linemen or Orlando Scandrick and Morris Claiborne at cornerback.
"I don't know that he got benched – it was hot out there," Kiffin said. "We intend to play some guys – same way with Mo at corner."
It didn't seem quite like a rotation in this instance, however, as Sims took over for Carter without much variation shortly after halftime. It wasn't a memorable day for any of the Cowboys' linebackers, as the Chargers' tight ends and running backs combined for 19 receptions for 231 yards and three touchdowns.
Pressed to clarify, Kiffin remained adamant about his original stance.
"I wasn't keeping track of (individual playing time), to tell you the truth. Ernie was planning on playing some, and it was hot and we rotated some players in there – same with the D-Line," Kiffin said. "It wasn't really hot-hot, but it was a little bit warmer than normal. And we were on the field quite a bit, too. It's not like 'Wow, this guy got benched' or something like that. I'm just telling you it wasn't that."
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett agreed with that assessment during his postgame press conference. [embedded_ad]
"Bruce was in and out," Garrett said. "Throughout the game we had a couple guys that were in and out but I don't think that it was anything serious."
Carter, for his part, left questions of playing time up to the coaching staff.
"That's just up to the coaches. My job as a player is just to go out there and play – just go out there and do the best I can," he said. "That's out of my control."
It's something to keep an eye on going forward this week. The Cowboys' defense gets to follow up this performance with a date against an even better quarterback and offense in Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
"It's tough, but that's just part of the NFL – there's no days off and there's no easy games," Carter said. "We've just got to go back to work on Wednesday."