The Dallas Cowboys fell to the Chicago Bears 34-18 in a Monday night showdown between two 2-1 teams. Both teams were coming off of wins, Dallas defeated Tampa Bay 16-10 last week and Chicago decimated the Rams 23-6.
The key factor coming into this game for both teams was the poor play of each’s offensive line, but it was the Dallas turnovers –and quarterback Tony Romo being a little too cavalier with the ball– that did the Cowboys in and dropped them to 2-2 on the season.
Romo and Bears quarterback Jay Cutler have been much-maligned throughout their respective football careers for the tendency to turn the ball over too much and take too many risks during the game, but Romo’s “gunslinger” mentality doomed Dallas on this night. The 10-year veteran had a miserable night, throwing five interceptions, including two that Chicago ran back for touchdowns.
Despite the turnovers, Romo had a decent night passing the ball, completing 31 of 43 passes for 307 and a touchdown, but all of that will be lost in the interceptions. Receiver Dez Bryant had perhaps his most uneven game as a Dallas Cowboy. The third-year wideout had 8 catches for 105 yards, but dropped multiple third down passes and didn’t seem to have his head in the game early on, running a wrong route that lead to an interception returned for six.
On a positive note, tight end Jason Witten put to rest early predictions of his decline, catching 13 balls for 112 yards and a late touchdown from backup quarterback Kyle Orton.
The Dallas defense, which had been ranked the top defense in the NFL through three games, had a little bit of a wake-up call against the Bears, as well. Cutler used a clean pocket for most of the night to methodically dissect the Cowboy defense for 275 yards and two touchdowns (on only 18 completions), and took full advantage of top target Brandon Marshall. Marshall torched Cowboys off-season acquisition cornerback Brandon Carr for most of the night, grabbing seven balls for 138 yards and a touchdown.
The game started on a similar note as the Seahawks game, with a field goal for the opposing team, and then Romo threw his first pick on a third down play to Bears cornerback Charles Tillman. Dez Bryant was supposed to stop on his route, but kept going and Romo threw the ball where he thought the receiver was going to be, the result was Tillman taking it back for the touchdown and the early 10-0 lead.
Dallas responded immediately, though. Romo went 8 of 9 for 80 yards on the following drive and hit Miles Austin on a crossing route for a 10-yard touchdown to get Dallas within three at the half.
The first drive of the second half is what really did Dallas in. Cutler used a variety of short passes and slants to guide Chicago into Dallas territory and then rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne had his first “welcome to the NFL” moment as playmaker Devin Hester burned him on a double move for a 34-yard diving touchdown to give Chicago a 17-7 lead. Dallas responded again, though, driving down the field quickly and inside the Chicago 15. But on second down, Romo hit receiver Kevin Ogletree in the numbers on a slant, but the ball bounced off and into the waiting hands of Bears safety, Major Wright. It was Romo’s second pick, and the second that really wasn’t his fault.
Dallas got the ball back quickly after, with linebacker DeMarcus Ware strip-sacking Cutler, but the nail in the coffin came immediately after on the Cowboys first play. The Bears brought pressure up the middle and forced Romo to step up, and as he was trying to shovel it to fullback Lawrence Vickers, his hand was hit and the ball ricocheted straight to Bears linebacker Lance Briggs, who broke tackles and ran 74 yards for the touchdown and a 24-7 lead.
Chicago never looked back after that, collecting two more Tony Romo interceptions and tacking on another touchdown and field goal to get to their point total of 34.
For Dallas, it was an uninspiring home display after a similar result last week against the Bucs. Dallas goes into the bye week with much uncertainty and the Baltimore Ravens waiting for the Cowboys in week 6. Dallas better hope for a better showing then, any chance of a decent season may depend on it.