It was one of those games where I probably could’ve written most of this piece before the game and just scheduled it to publish this morning.
But, you know, journalistic ethics and that sort of thing.
Here’s what I could’ve told you going into it: the Bears will not be able to stop DeMarco Murray, but the Cowboys will more than likely abandon the running game early. And, the Cowboys will not be able to stop Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
Both of those were true, and ultimately defined the game. What I couldn’t have told you is that the Bears were going to completely embarrass the Cowboys.
In my breakdown of the 24-point blowout, I’ll go ahead and start with the negatives. You know, one of those bad-news-first situations. And the glass-half-EMPTY outlook is back!
“Struggling” would be an understatement in describing the Cowboys’ defense.
Chicago never punted.
Josh McCown was able to go to the Marshall-and-Jeffery well time and time again – 10 combined catches for 162 yards and a TD in the first half – to build their lead, then it was a heavy dose of the Bears’ backfield in the second half.
And the Cowboys couldn’t stop anybody. The run game set up two second-half touchdowns, which came in the form of receptions by Michael Bush and Matt Forte.
Dallas had a couple chances to make plays. Orlando Scandrick and Bruce Carter each dropped interceptions, and a Brandon Carr holding penalty erased an actual interception that could’ve put the Cowboys back in the game.
That didn’t happen.
In total, the Bears gained 498 yards on 68 plays on the eight consecutive scoring drives. McCown finished with 348 yards and four touchdown tosses.
Murray had six carries on the first drive of the game – and gained 52 yards – but finished the game with just 18 carries. It took him 14 carries to hit 100 yards, but ran only five times in the second half. Murray ran four times on one fourth-quarter drive, gaining 45 yards. But it was too little, too late for the Dallas running game.
Joseph Randle was used as the “third down back” several times early, but didn’t see any third down carries. And quite frankly, he’s a below-average pass blocker. No disrespect to Joseph, but he doesn’t quite have the pedigree to be used as a decoy back. If you’re going to pass on third down, you might as well leave your better pass blocker – who also happens to be the better runner and bigger threat – in the game.
In a game where the Cowboys once again abandoned the run, one would expect Tony Romo to be a bigger factor than he was. He didn’t play bad, but he didn’t steal the show. Three straight incompletions ended Dallas’s final threat in the first half and allowed the Bears to take the ball again and go up by 10 before the half.
Romo completed just three-of-seven passes in the second half, and Dez Bryant saw just four targets. Which is not a formula for success in a game where they’re going to rely on the pass in the second half.
The positives (kind of)
Romo started off hot, completing eight of his first ten passes and throwing two first-half touchdowns. It looked like he was to have a great game. He ended up with three touchdowns through the air on 11-of-20 passing.
But Murray was the key to the offense (until they stopped using him, that is). He ran for 145 yards on 18 carries (8.1 yards per carry), fueling the Dallas offense in the first half. Ninety-nine of those yards came in the first half, and his yards per attempt only went up in his sparse second-half carries.
Cole Beasley pulled in just two catches, but they were both huge. His first was an 11-yard pickup on third down that kept the first Dallas scoring drive alive. His second was a leaping touchdown catch, that, had it been a closer game, could've been one of the biggest plays of the game. Beasley's performance was about as under-the-radar as you get, but it's encouraging to see receivers step up, especially when the no. 1 guy sees just four targets.
To salt the wounds of a 17-point loss that was really a lot worst than the scoreboard read, Sean Lee – who was making his much-anticipated return Monday – left the game with a neck injury, and Dwayne Harris left with a hamstring injury.
The last thing a struggling team needs is for its top defensive talent and top special teams talent to spend time on the sidelines.
So while the 2013 ‘Boys are only a few plays away from 9-4 or 10-3, they really look a lot worse than 7-6 at this point. And here we are, with a team that is undefeated in the division, but still relying on the Eagles to lose to get back into first place.
That’s a very Dallas Cowboys situation to be in.