Cowboys vs. Bears: Full Roster Report Card Grades for Dallas
If you knew the Dallas Cowboys would score 28 points in their Week 14 Monday night matchup with the Chicago Bears, you'd probably take it. But when the opponent scores on every single possession of the game, not counting the final kneel-down, you're going to be in trouble.
With the 45-28 loss, the Cowboys fall to 7-6 and second place in the NFC East. They clearly have some major issues on defense, but it's not like the offense was rolling on all cylinders. The running game was hot all night, but no receiver for Dallas had more than 36 yards.
Using a combination of stats and film study, let's grade each position for the Cowboys.
It was an extremely unique game for quarterback Tony Romo and the perfect example of why passer rating can be misleading over small samples. Because he tossed three touchdowns, Romo's passer rating was 109.2.
In reality, though, Romo completed only 55 percent of his passes and totaled just 104 yards on the night. That was good for only 5.2 YPA, which isn't going to win very many games. He had decent protection, but Romo showed that, perhaps due to his small hands, he's not an effective player in heavy winds.
The Cowboys showed why a dominant running game can often end up being fruitless. They ran for 198 yards on the night, including 145 from running back DeMarco Murray. Murray averaged 8.1 YPC, too, so he was highly efficient.
I don't think the Cowboys made a mistake in running the ball by any means. Many times, teams can overdo it with the run, even if it's working, letting the opponent steal games because they stay close. The 'Boys were so good on the ground that they should have kept it going as long as they did, but when you have to keep up with an offense that's scoring on every possession, it will be tough to keep running.
The Cowboys wide receivers combined for just 77 yards receiving on the night. Everything looked good right out of the gate, with Dallas running the ball down the field before wide receiver Dez Bryant cashed in on a short back-shoulder touchdown.
But Bryant caught only one more pass on the night, thanks to a large dose of Cover 2 from Chicago. The blueprint for stopping Dallas is out: play conservatively in the back-end, double Bryant and force another wide receiver to beat you.
Right now, the Cowboys don't have another legitimate weapon to take pressure off Bryant.
Tight end Jason Witten caught a 10-yard touchdown, but that was his only reception on the night. Witten has gotten unusually lucky with touchdowns this year. He now has seven on 55 receptions. That's good for a 10.9 percent touchdown rate, which is way above his 5.9 percent career rate.
Tight ends James Hanna and Gavin Escobar combined for three receptions and 38 yards.
LT Tyron Smith
LG Ronald Leary
C Travis Frederick
C/G Phil Costa
RG Mackenzy Bernadeau
RT Doug Free
RT Jermey Parnell
It was a little bit difficult to grade the offensive line in pass protection since Romo dropped back only 22 times on the night. The line gave up two sacks, but they also didn't allow a quarterback hit. Left tackle Tyron Smith was particularly good.
In the running game, you could argue the majority of Murray's success came because of the line's ability to drive Chicago off the ball. Again, Smith has been a standout as a run blocker all year.
DE DeMarcus Ware
DT Jason Hatcher
DT Nick Hayden
DE George Selvie
DE/LB Kyle Wilber
DE Jarius Wynn
DT Drake Nevis
It was really surprising to see the Cowboys fail to get pressure on quarterback Josh McCown. The Bears' offensive tackles have struggled all year, allowing the most combined pressures in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Defensive end DeMarcus Ware had a late sack in garbage time, but neither he nor George Selvie played a good game. They combined for only five tackles.
Meanwhile, defensive tackle Jason Hatcher had an incredibly quiet game on the inside. With only one tackle, Hatcher was neutralized for the majority of the night.
LB Sean Lee
LB Bruce Carter
LB/DE Kyle Wilber
LB Kyle Bosworth
LB Martez Wilson
LB Ernie Sims
Stop the presses! Linebacker Sean Lee is injured again. The majority of what we perceive as injury-proneness is likely just randomness, but we have to start to wonder if Lee is dramatically more injury-prone than the typical NFL player. He still had seven tackles in his limited time.
The player of the game for the Cowboys defense might have been Kyle Wilber. Playing both linebacker and defensive end this year, Wilber has been a pleasant surprise of late, especially against the run. He led Dallas with nine tackles on Monday night.
CB Brandon Carr
CB Orlando Scandrick
Slot B.W. Webb
CB Sterling Moore
Going up against the Cowboys' undersized cornerbacks, it really wasn't difficult to project quality games for big receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. They combined for 184 yards and a score, although it could have been a lot worse. Cornerbacks Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick and B.W. Webb all got their fair share of the duo.
Moving forward, the Cowboys desperately need to find a way to get better play out of their cornerbacks. It starts up front. Right now, the secondary is being asked to cover for way too long because the Cowboys just can't generate much pressure.
Safety Barry Church racked up eight tackles on the night. You have to wonder how many tackles are the result of his own playmaking ability and how many are simply because the Cowboys allow running backs to get into the secondary quite often. Although the latter point is certainly a factor for Church, I think he's also played really well this year.
The Cowboys need to find a safety to play center field. Jeff Heath isn't the answer, so it's likely the Cowboys' 2014 starting safeties are Church and someone who isn't currently on the roster.
K Dan Bailey
P Chris Jones
LS L.P. Ladouceur
There's not too much to report here. Kicker Dan Bailey didn't attempt a field goal and punter Chris Jones averaged just 37.3 yards on three punts due to fierce winds. Bailey is the only Dallas player who has received consistently high grades this year.