Cowboys vs. Bears: Takeaways from Dallas' 45-28 Loss to Chicago
The Dallas Cowboys went into Solider Field looking to earn a much-needed victory over the Chicago Bears. Big D not only couldn't make that happen but virtually froze on the turf, losing 48-25 in a game that wasn't that close for very long.
The Cowboys moved to 1-2 on the season against the NFC North and are staring down a short week before playing the Green Bay Packers in Week 15. Dallas doesn't have a ton of time to reflect on its latest disappointment. Jason Garrett's team needs to learn what went wrong in Chicago and fast.
Here are eight takeaways from Dallas' latest prime-time debacle.
All statistics were retrieved from NFL.com unless otherwise specified.
DeMarco Murray Ran the Ball Well
Perhaps the only bright spot for Dallas this entire football game was the running of DeMarco Murray. The Cowboys running back rushed for 146 yards on 18 carries.
According to Bleacher Report's own Brag Gagnon, the Monday Night Football loss was just the second time in 30 years that the Cowboys lost after a rusher gained 145 or more yards:
Only the second time 30 years the Cowboys lost despite getting a 145-yard individual effort on the ground.— Brad Gagnon (@Brad_Gagnon) December 10, 2013
Murray gashed the Bears defense practically every time he was handed the football. Like many games this season, however, Murray was simply not fed the ball enough.
The Cowboys got away from the running game around the second quarter and never went back to it until the score was out of hand. Murray is the only Cowboy who deserves to hang his head somewhat high after the team's visit to the Windy City.
Josh McCown Carved Up the Dallas Defense
Josh McCown has admittedly played very well while Jay Cutler has been injured for Chicago. He had nine touchdown passes and just one interception heading into this Week 14 matchup with Dallas.
While playing against the Cowboys' No. 32-ranked passing defense, McCown threw for four touchdowns, 348 yards and completed 75 percent of his 36 passes.
The journeyman quarterback found Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall a combined 11 times for 184 yards and one spectacular Jeffery touchdown.
McCown played well, but honestly, he played a little too well. His Week 14 statistics are certainly helped by some porous defense by the Cowboys.
Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's unit has been banged up for sure, but you can't give up 348 yards to Chicago's No. 2 quarterback.
Nobody Could Stop Alshon Jeffery
Jeffery had himself a day against the Cowboys defense, highlighted by his improbable touchdown reception in the second quarter.
While that touchdown was the result of some phenomenal footwork and hands on Jeffery's part, it was also poor defense. The Cowboys had two defenders on either side of Jeffery and neither could simply push the guy out of bounds.
Jeffery finished with five catches for 84 yards and the aforementioned score, all of which really crippled Dallas' hopes of winning this one.
Whether the Cowboys had one or two men on the Bears' No. 17, Jeffery seemed to come up on the winning end of most battles.
Cowboys Offense Crumbled
The Cowboys offense came out with a methodical opening drive. It took almost six minutes off the first-quarter clock and saw plenty of balance between running and passing plays that turned into six points.
Dallas was able to have another such drive that led to a Jason Witten touchdown reception, but it was all downhill from there. It wasn't until garbage time in the fourth quarter that the Cowboys scored again.
It seemed like once offensive coordinator Bill Callahan saw that the Bears were going to be tough to stop defensively, he put everything on Tony Romo's shoulders.
Instead of keeping to the game plan and balancing between a healthy dose of Murray and Romo throws, the latter became the focus.
Once Dallas got away from the only rhythm it had on offense in the running game, the unit seemed to lose its effectiveness moving the football.
Injuries Plagued Cowboys Once Again
At different points against Chicago, Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Dwayne Harris and DeMarcus Ware all missed plays due to various injuries.
The Cowboys have had one of the baddest cases of the injury bug as any team in the NFL this season. The harsh cold of Chicago didn't help the 'Boys in this one, and it likely played a role in some injuries on both sides on Monday night.
It seems that whenever the Cowboys see one healthy starter return like Sean Lee did Monday night, two (or three) others go down. Lee even had to leave the Bears game with a neck injury.
Every NFL team has to overcome injuries, but there are only so many more free agents on the street Dallas can sign. The Cowboys are not without other problems, but one thing really holding them back is the injury bug.
Dallas' Defense Fell Flat
It was certainly not a good night for the Cowboys defense on Dec. 9. Monte Kiffin's rag tag crew gave up 490 yards of offense to Chicago.
This is not the first time the Dallas defense has been manhandled, however, as ESPN Stats and Info recently pointed out via Twitter:
Tonight was the 5th time this season the Cowboys have allowed at least 490 yards. No other team has 2 such games.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 10, 2013
One has to wonder if Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is regretting showing Rob Ryan the door last offseason. Kiffin has not had many of his starters healthy for much of the season, but the blame for this embarrassing defense falls at his feet.
The Cowboys proved in Chicago and New Orleans that their offense is not good enough to pull out shootouts in order to make up for their defensive woes.
Dallas Missed More Than a Few Opportunities
At one point against Chicago, Harris returned a kick into Bears territory. His offense rewarded him with zero points and was forced to punt the football.
On the defensive side, the Cowboys had three prime opportunities to intercept McCown. Orlando Scandrick dropped a sure pick in the end zone that eventually led to three Chicago points.
The other two would-be turnovers occurred on the same drive. McCown nearly threw one interception and then a few plays later actually did throw one. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, on that same interception play, Brandon Carr was called for defensive holding on Marshall.
Dallas had more than a few opportunities to turn the tables on its opponent. On every single occasion, the Cowboys stepped on their own toes and muffed any chances they gave themselves.
The Cowboys Need to Win Out to Win the NFC East
According to ESPN's Ed Werder, after the Monday Night Football loss, Romo gave his thoughts on what his team needs to do to win the NFC East:
Tony Romo: "It feels like we have to win out."— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) December 10, 2013
It's hard to argue with the Cowboys' starting quarterback. Dallas was in control of its own destiny heading into Week 14 and now finds itself a game behind Philadelphia in the division.
The Eagles and Cowboys will play in Week 17 in a game that very well could have the NFC East crown hanging in the balance. For that game to have that much meaning, though, the Cowboys need to defeat a Green Bay team that could have Aaron Rodgers back and archrival Washington.
Both Washington and the Packers have lost quite a few games recently, but neither will be easy wins. Having Rodgers back under center would surely spark some life into a Packers team that is still in the hunt for a postseason berth.
As for Washington, nothing would make owner Dan Snyder happier than disturbing the Cowboys' own hopes for a postseason run.
Thanks to its loss at Soldier Field, Dallas now finds itself with its back against the wall with just three games left to play.
Alex Hall is a Dallas Cowboys Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @AlexKHall.
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