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Rodgers Aside, Here Was The Defense's Top Issue


ARLINGTON, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys are still narrowly atop the NFC East at 3-2 after Sunday's 34-24 loss to Green Bay.

But the defense keeps a separate record of their own performance.

"Very disappointing," linebacker Jaylon Smith said. "We're 2-3 against our standards, regardless of our overall record."

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, still unbeaten in three career starts at AT&T Stadium, was the biggest threat to Smith and company. Rodgers completed 22 of 34 passes for 238 yards with his typical hocus-pocus, dipping and scrambling out of trouble, extending plays and making throws into tight windows.

But all four of Green Bay's touchdowns came on the ground from running back Aaron Jones, who rushed 19 times for 107 yards and added a team-high 7 catches for 75 yards.

"That was the biggest issue on defense is they were able to run the ball," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. "They ran the ball inside on us when we got down to the red zone a couple times. But just really uncharacteristic of our defense. That's the thing we do as well as anything.

"The gap discipline and just physically getting off the blocks and making plays across the board wasn't consistent enough, particularly early on in the game. I thought it got better as the game went on, but they ran the ball too easily against us."

Through four games, the Packers (4-1) ranked 26th in rushing with only 86.3 yards per game. They got 120 total rushing yards Sunday. Jones averaged 5.6 yards a carry, often bouncing plays outside and turning the corner past defenders.

"Angles – that's the name of the game on the defensive side of the ball," Smith said. "And if you're not all playing together, you're going to get hurt, especially going up against a team like the Packers."

Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, the team's standout young linebackers, led the defense with 9 tackles each. But Vander Esch was frustrated with his play.

"Poor performance by me. Just bad footwork and bad tackling," he said. "Those are tackles I shouldn't miss, and I'm going to focus on that this week in practice."

The Cowboys entered Sunday with the NFL's 12th-ranked rushing defense and did a relatively good job of keeping Saints star Alvin Kamara in check last week. Their effort against Green Bay, constantly pursuing Rodgers, was evident.

But Jones helped Rodgers control the game's pace until the fourth quarter, when the Cowboys' offense ignited and outscored Green Bay 14-3.

"We didn't do our job and we didn't stay in our gaps," defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford said. "And that's what we've got to do. If we do our jobs, a lot of those are stops."