The Chicago Bears roared into Cowboys Stadium on Monday night and devoured the Dallas Cowboys. Chicago was like a bear hunting for some food and the Cowboys played the willing victim. They might as well covered themselves with bacon and walked up to the bear, tapped him on the shoulder and said bon appetit. Tony Romo, with the help of a couple of receivers, served up five interceptions. To make matters worse, two of those were returned for pick sixes. It really doesn't get worse than that.
In the next couple of days, we'll be diving into all the areas that failed last night. But for now, let's hear from the Cowboys - in their own words - and see if any of it brings any hope that this debacle won't be indicative of the rest of the 2012 season.
Dez Bryant could have had a great night. As it was, he did have a 100-yard receiving game which usually would be a cause for celebration. Instead, Bryant's night was remembered more for his drops, and one very bad miscommunication with Tony Romo. Who ran the wrong route on the first pick six?
"We just were seeing how the corner played," said head coach Jason Garrett. "Dez saw it one way and Tony saw it the other way."
"It was just the guy made a good play on the ball," Bryant said. "He kind of disguised what he was doing. What was called, if I was pressed, I was supposed to run deep. If he was off, I was supposed to run the stop route. He pressed and then he kind of bailed and stopped. I just felt like he made a good play on the ball."
"It was like a press man and it went to a zone," Bryant said. "If he’s man up I was supposed to convert, and if he backed off I was supposed to keep it on. (Tillman) just made a good play."
Sounds like Bryant is taking some of the blame there, basically admitting he was tricked. Looking at the play, the corner did back off. More disconcerting is the pattern of mental lapses Bryant showed throughout the game. Multiple passes were dropped, and he was flagged for a penalty because he didn't get into his pre-snap stance correctly. On his drop of a ball late in the game, Bryant had too many things on his mind instead of priority number one, making the catch.
"I take pride in catching the football," Bryant said. "I felt the sideline and I felt like I just wanted to stay in. I was too busy trying to focus on the sideline and not on the ball, and I let it tip my fingers."
Dez has all the talent and physical qualities to be one of the best receivers in football. So far, he doesn't have the mind-set that elevates all that potential into production. It's time to wonder if he ever will. Will he continue to be inconsistent, continue to travel between sublime and sub-par? Only Dez can answer that.
Tony Romo had a rough night. He wasn't responsible for all of the interceptions, but he wasn't as crisp as he could have been. On the turnovers, we've been here before with Tony. He'll have games like this, but he usually rebounds. Says Mr. Romo:
"We have to just keep figuring out a way to execute better," Romo said. "They’re simple things sometimes. The No. 1 factor is taking care of the football. I know that. We preach it to the guys every day. And it’s obviously frustrating when I was the one who turned it over tonight. The last couple of interceptions were just stupid."
"I can't try and do too much, and I think I tried to do too much tonight," Romo said. "Going forward I just have to do my job. And I will. ... I have to do my job. The competitive side takes over sometimes and tries to make a play."
Of all things that failed on Monday night, the one that is most likely to rebound is the play of Romo. He was off for sure last night, and not just the interceptions, he missed two easy touchdown passes in this game. But Romo will play better.
The Cowboys secondary had been the apple of our eye in the first three games of 2012, but last night they were just one more plate on the buffet line for the Bears. They feasted, including Devin Hester on Morris Claiborne.
"I played horrible," [Morris] Claiborne said. "Any time you give up something like that, on top of that, it’s something you’ve been working on everyday in practice, you go out and give it up. It’s hard."
Claiborne was talking about a 34-yard touchdown pass that Devin Hester caught early in the second half, giving the Bears a 17-7 lead. Hester hit the former LSU standout with a double-move, leaving the veteran wide receiver wide-open in the middle of the field.
"I got to make that play," Claiborne said. "I got to be on top of that route. I got to go up and get that ball. That’s my ball. But I left it out there and they scored a touchdown. I learned from it and put it behind me. I’m going to try my best to not let it happen again."
Brandon Carr also was beaten repeatedly by the Bears receivers. Not helping matters was the Cowboys pass rush, which was in hibernation except for a few notable plays. The Cowboys defense wasn't the difference-maker it had been previously.
"It's very disappointing, here at home in front of our fans. We thought a lot was at stake here," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "We've got a long ways to go and got guys here who know how to do it. ... We all know when you don't take care of the ball, we all know what happens."
"We’ve got a long way to go, but this isn’t the way I want to get started," [Jerry] Jones said about his team’s 2-2 record. "I’m glad we got the time off we got. This will give us time to reassess and look in the mirror. As it turns out after tonight, this is a very timely bye for us."
"This has got to be a wake-up call for us," tight end Jason Witten said. "I don’t say that nonchalantly. You can’t bounce back and forth like this and try to compete come December. You can’t do it. We’ve been in that situation before. … We thought long and hard about getting to 3-1 going into this bye. We have to take it one at a time, we have to regroup, get healthy, evaluate it, stick together.
"Ultimately it comes down to results. We know that."