The Cowboys 31-30 loss Sunday at Detroit marked the second time this year and the sixth time since 2011 that the Cowboys offense has scored at least 30 points and the team lost. A porous and unreliable defense has certainly cost Dallas during the Jason Garrett era, but don’t pin this loss on the D.
The Dallas offense managed just 10 points off four Detroit turnovers in the second and third quarters. Dallas managed only 30 yards of offense in the four drives following the turnovers, punting twice.
Twice the defense gave Dallas the ball back in Detroit territory, and twice the offense scored – but they only managed four yards of total offense on those scoring drives.
Linebacker Sean Lee returned a second-quarter interception 74 yards to the Detroit 4-yard line to set up the team’s only touchdown off a turnover. Fittingly, it took a 5-yard touchdown pass on third down to hit paydirt on a 4-yard drive – nothing came easy for this offense, even though the turnovers were plentiful.
On the Cowboys’ other score off a turnover, cornerback Brandon Carr returned a third-quarter fumble to the Detroit 35-yard line. A Joseph Randle run for no gain and two incompletions later, Dan Bailey kicked a 53-yard field goal. The scoring drive: Three plays, 0 yards, three points.
Twice the defense gave the Cowboys the ball back in their own territory, and both times Dallas ended up punting.
Lee intercepted a Matthew Stafford pass on the second play of the second quarter, giving the Cowboys the ball back at their own 38-yard line. The resulting drive consisted of three passes for nine yards and a punt. Quarterback Tony Romo, harassed all day but never sacked, had to throw the ball away under duress on third down.
Safety Jeff Heath, making his first career start, forced a fumble in the third quarter that gave Dallas the ball back on its own 32-yard line. This time, the Cowboys offense managed 17 yards and one first down before punting the ball away at midfield.
The Dallas defense folded in the fourth quarter, no question, but the 13-7 lead Dallas took into the game’s final frame could have been much bigger. The problem was pass efficiency – Romo completed just 14 of 30 pass attempts. It marks the first time Romo has completed less than half of his passes since the 33-31 loss to the New York Giants in Week 2 of the 2009 season – that was 60 starts ago.
So don’t put this one all on the D.