2. The Defense – while it is true that it was the defense that was on the field and could not get a stop in the last minute, the only reason the Cowboys were even in this game was thanks to a downright gutsy effort by this defense. They manufactured 4 turnovers for starters. The Cowboys are only the second team to be +4 in turnovers in a game since 2011 and still lose. Here is what our crack offense was able to produce with each takeaway:
2nd Quarter – Interception by Sean Lee, ball at Dallas’ 38: 3 plays, punt
2nd Quarter – Interception by Sean Lee, ball at Detroit 4: 3 plays, 5-yard TD Dez Bryant
3rd Quarter – Bush fumble forced by Heath, recovered by Durant at Dallas’ 27: 6 plays, punt
3rd Quarter – Johnson fumble forced by Barry Church, recovered by Brandon Carr, ball at Detroit 35: 3 plays, 53-yard FG by Bailey
Takeaways are great because it stops your opponent from scoring, but as we saw on Sunday, they are survivable if your defense doesn’t surrender points off turnovers. Other than the drive where we started on Detroit’s 4-yard line, our anemic offense largely wasted 3 of the 4 opportunities – with one FG produced only by the clutch nature of Dan Bailey who nailed a very low percentage, 53-yard kick. Starting at the Detroit 35, we should have been able to put it in the end zone. If we had, we’d likely be celebrating a 5-3 record and a third straight win instead of drowning our sorrows over what might have been.
If you didn’t watch this game and only saw the stat line of 623 yards given up, you’d think it was a total defensive collapse. It wasn’t really. Despite multiple injuries, the defense had this team in the game up to the end. When Jakar Hamilton was forced into action late in the game due to injuries - the same guy who was promoted this week from the practice squad – it was his blown coverage in my analysis that allowed the 40-yard completion to Kris Durham. That set the Lions up deep in Dallas territory with just 40 seconds left in the game. Hamilton was late getting there after a hobbled Scandrick had let Durham get behind him. That is the price you pay when all you have left to put in the game is a practice squad guy. You have to give credit to Stafford and the Lions for finding him on that play. As the announcers noted, that is almost impossible to pull off on a defense playing a soft zone in prevent mode. We found a way to make it happen. This defense has done amazing things with players we never heard of – but I think it finally caught up to us on Sunday. Partiularly in the 4th quarter where we surrendered 24 points to Detroit. Overall, you certainly can’t blame the defensive players.