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Mailbag: Trying Out Some Younger LBs?

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Am I the only one complaining about the edgy (terrible) calls against the Cowboys in key moments in the game? Our QB got hit in the face four times after that call on Jaylon and drew no flags. – MANUEL GONZALEZ
/ GUADELOUPE

Rob: The only one? Definitely not. Mike McCarthy didn't go there when asked about some of those calls (or non-calls). Generally speaking, he said they've got to control the plays they can control. Regarding Jaylon, if you hit a quarterback in the head, intentional or not, it's going to be called nine times out of 10. And there were some no-calls that could've gone against Pittsburgh, to be honest with you. But it is unfortunate because that was by far the best performance on defense this season.

David: Yeah, I'm very confident you aren't alone in this. The refs got a bit flag-happy, and I think you saw Ben Roethlisberger get some benefit of the doubt for being a surefire Hall of Famer, while Garrett Gilbert is a guy making his first career start. The illegal contact penalty on Jaylon for knocking down Chase Claypool was especially weak, given that it wiped out a crucial takeaway. But you know, that's football. After a game like that, I think more about the missed opportunities – the decision to kick the field goal at the end of the third quarter, the end zone interception by Minkah Fitzpatrick – than questionable calls.

With Joe Thomas being hurt and Jaylon Smith taking a step back this year and coming up with costly penalties at the worst times, do you see the Cowboys playing Francis Bernard at all? I know it was a small sample size we got to see in training camp, but he showed flashes and I believe he could be a help to this defense down the stretch. – OSCAR GRIMES / WHITESBORO, NY

Rob: I wouldn't rule it out later in the season depending on how things play out in the NFC East. Right now they're focused on getting Sean Lee back in the rotation. He had four snaps against the Eagles and 13 on Sunday, rotating with Jaylon Smith. Yes, we've seen the coaches turn to young defensive players at spots where they haven't gotten production. That seems to be paying off. But at linebacker, Lee gives them the best chance to be successful. They're in the business of trying to win games and stay in this division race, no matter what the record says right now.

David: This is going to be a dividing line between fans and the team, there's no way around it. Fans want to focus on the future and turn over every stone for next season. Coaches and players want to do everything in their power to climb back into the division race. Y'all don't want to hear it, but it is what it is. If the playoffs are obviously a lost cause a month from now, then I think we'll see some young guys get auditions in the last few games. But for the time being, they're going to stick with the veterans who give them the best chance to win.

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