FRISCO, Texas – The most embarrassing run was perhaps Aaron Jones‘ landing.
The Packers faced second and fifth, the game tied at 7 with 1:48 to play in the second quarter. Dallas’ left defensive end and center back traded gaps, but wires crossed on the right. Suddenly, defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. and defensive tackle Quinton Bohanna attacked the same gap.
And an inside alley was wide open for the running back Packers star to take advantage of.
Jones jumped through the gap, cutting back to the left and rounding the left touchline home. He spun as he vaulted into the end zone and grabbed his crotch in mid-air for full effect.
A failure of the Cowboys’ central defense triggered their first deficit.
Repeated failures of the perimeter run defense would seal their latest, a 31-28 Packers decision in overtime.
“Disgusting,” linebacker Micah Parsons said after the game at Lambeau Field. “Until we put out this fire, we’re just going to keep seeing it. If people want to keep doing their own thing, we’re going to deal with that all year and we’re never going to be the team we want to be.”
Dallas’ loss to Green Bay wasn’t the first time a team had exploited a glaring weakness against it. But after two direct opponents hit the Cowboys for more than 200 yards each, emotions ran high. Three days later they were still there.
“You should Be Angry”, Cowboy’s Safety Jayron Kearse said Wednesday from his locker. “You should be frustrated. If you’re not, then I think we have the wrong people on this defense.
“If you don’t have a sense of urgency about how last week went, with the how [the game] before, then you must examine yourself and look at yourself in the mirror.”
The secret is out
Opponents, it seems, have uncovered a game plan to exploit the Cowboys’ weakness. The strategy goes deeper than just running the ball, although the volume of rush attacks has been heavily factored into the game plans. The Chicago Bears and Packers, the Cowboys’ last two opponents, have run nearly twice as often (1.8 and 1.95 times, respectively) as they have thrown. The reduced pass attempts minimize the Cowboys’ pass opportunities and thus neutralize the top strength of the defense. And the challenge isn’t that teams just run on third downs.
While opponents see the Cowboys struggle to stay disciplined on run-gap assignments and tend to allow leaky yards, they push productive first and second-down runs to obvious passing third-downs evade. The Packers attacked the Cowboys in third and fourth place 14 times. Eleven times those plays took 4 or fewer yards to advance, leading defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to describe the bleed as “death by 1,000 paper cuts.” And though Green Bay’s longest third-down attempt — for 7 yards early in the fourth quarter — failed, the Packers went for fourth-and-7. quarterback Aaron Rodgers found rookie receiver Christian Watson for his second of three touchdowns.
“We recognize our strength in the pass rush, but pass rushing is a privilege right now,” said head coach Mike McCarthy. “Until we take care of this running challenge, it will stay that way.”
Players and coaches insist that while the puffs are frustrating, they indicate a lack of effort not so much as defenders miscommunicating or overcompensating for coverage to create a game-changing game. “Sometimes,” defensive tackle Neville Gallimore parroted coaching sessions, “You can go through the game Not make the game.”
This emphasizes the Cowboys’ defense in preparation for the talented 8:1 Minnesota Vikings. Hold solid edges, attack the right gaps, force rush lanes, and “really drag that ass to another level,” implore Quinn and his staff.
Jefferson, with his absurd fourth and 18 catch in the fourth quarter of last Sunday victory over overtime vs buffalo bills, must worry the cowboys high school. After all, Green Bay’s rookie Watson burned Dallas for 107 yards and three touchdowns with far less talent and experience.
But the Cowboys can’t ignore the threat from Cook, whose 80.8 rushing yards per game ranks seventh in the league and 2.5 yards per carry from contact ranks eighth. The Cowboys rank 22nd with 3.4 yards from contact allowed per carry. A missed tackle or a bad angle could be costly, as the Bills saw last weekend when Cook, unable to find the creases in his teammates’ blocking lanes, loosened and broke tackles in line with an 81-yard touchdown, the longest carry -To the NFL this season.
“He’s a guy who can get going quickly when he gets the ball,” Kearse said. “He’s very elusive. Very, very efficient with his jump cuts, getting in and out of his breaks and such when he’s running his routes or at the limit. So against a guy like him you have to wrap his leg because he keeps it moving on contact.
“His vision is good, his caster is good. It’s a lot that comes with a guy like that.”
The Cowboys respect how the Vikings target discrepancies, weak links, and map-specific attacks, so expect a heavy dose of the run. And with seven of Minnesota’s eight wins come by a score or less, the margin for error is small — and the urgency high.
“There’s a lot of red-ass, a ton of disappointment, a lot of anger,” McCarthy said Monday. “That indicates the commitment, the will to win, the solidarity.”
Now the cowboys must turn that fuel into fire.
“We played disappointing football for ourselves, the fans and everyone behind the Cowboys,” Kearse said. “We’ll be back next week and have the opportunity to repair the ship.”