ARLINGTON, Texas –Imagine how loud the fourth quarter "Let's Go Bears!" chant would've been if Cowboys Stadium's roof and end zone doors were closed.
Call the uninvited guests good practice for the upcoming schedule. After their Week 5 bye, the Cowboys will face four road tests in their next five games, with trips to Baltimore, Carolina, Atlanta and Philadelphia making their 2-2 start seem all the more inadequate. The Cowboys' home fans couldn't match the intensity of those backing Chicago, but then again, they never had much reason to in the team's 34-18 loss to the Bears in front of a national audience on Monday night.
"That's what happens when you don't give them anything to cheer for," cornerback Brandon Carr said afterward. "They paid their hard-earned money, and they weren't satisfied. We weren't satisfied, either. They got out of here before we could."
Carr groaned loudly for the second time in a minute, still kicking himself for a below-standard performance in coverage against Chicago receiver Brandon Marshall, who had seven catches for 138 yards and one of Jay Cutler's two touchdown passes, which equaled the number thrown to the Bears by the Cowboys' own Tony Romo.
Romo was picked off five times in the game, tying his career high set in another early-season Monday night contest, at Buffalo in 2007. As ugly as that performance was, Romo at least saved some magic for the end, leading the way to an improbable comeback. There were certainly no heroics this time, as the offense couldn't function regularly for what's now the third week in a row.
"We have to just keep figuring out a way to execute better," Romo said. "They're simple things sometimes. The No. 1 factor is taking care of the football. I know that. We preach it to the guys every day. And it's obviously frustrating when I was the one who turned it over tonight. The last couple of interceptions were just stupid."
By that point, well into the fourth quarter, with the game getting entirely out of reach, the quarterback clearly felt the need to throw caution to the wind in hopes of a comeback. The interceptions that cost the Cowboys the game came earlier.
Toward the end of the first half, with Chicago having just taken the lead, 3-0, on a Robbie Gould field goal, Romo threw his first pick of the game, the result of a clear miscommunication with receiver Dez Bryant, when Chris Tillman baited him into a hot route, but broke on the ball and returned it for a 25-yard touchdown. Romo and the Cowboys quickly answered back, going on an 80-yard drive in the two-minute drill, culminating in a 10-yard touchdown pass to Miles Austin.
Once the second half got underway, though, the turnovers started to pile up. Even after the Bears scored on their opening drive, the Cowboys appeared to be on their way to answering back when a Romo pass to Kevin Ogletree bounced off the hands of his target and into those of safety Major Wright.
A DeMarcus Ware strip-sack of Cutler put the Cowboys back in business, but on their very first play after taking over possession, Romo had the ball knocked out of his hands by defensive end Henry Melton as he tried to flip it to DeMarco Murray. Ruled a pass, the ball was caught out of the air by Lance Briggs, who returned it 74 yards for a touchdown to put the Bears up 24-7. From there, the Cowboys never got within two touchdowns of the Bears' lead.
On a night when the Dallas offense outgained Chicago's despite the Cowboys being without five defensive starters for an extended period, the difference was easy to see.
"I think the story of the game was turnovers," head coach Jason Garrett said. "I thought we moved the ball really well throughout the game … just at different times they made the key plays."
The Cowboys will gather at Valley Ranch to review the game Tuesday, but have to take off Thursday through Sunday for their bye. It may be tough to find the consistency the team clearly lacks in only 48 hours together before the team disperses. When they return, it'll be on to the Ravens, not the friendliest matchup at this time, given the troubles of the Cowboys' offense.
"This has got to be a wake-up call for us," tight end Jason Witten said. "I don't say that nonchalantly. You can't bounce back and forth like this and try to compete come December. You can't do it. We've been in that situation before. … We thought long and hard about getting to 3-1 going into this bye. We have to take it one at a time, we have to regroup, get healthy, evaluate it, stick together.
"Ultimately it comes down to results. We know that."