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Cowboys Loss: When Opportunity Knocks, Someone Has To Answer The Door

On Sunday afternoon the ball-hawking Dallas defense had an opportunity to make Alex Smith the scapegoat for a Chiefs' defeat. Instead they allowed him to escape his own shortcomings.

Alex Smith tried to shoot himself in the foot on two different occasions on Sunday.  His missed on both attempts.
Alex Smith tried to shoot himself in the foot on two different occasions on Sunday. His missed on both attempts.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

While there were plenty of issues on Sunday, including the offense failing to establish a running game and highly questionable play selection (all of which will be rehashed ad nauseam over then upcoming days), I am going to begin by looking at how the Dallas Cowboys defense failed to embrace the turnover mantra that Monte Kiffin and his staff continually preach. Coming into the game, it was widely discussed how the Chiefs quarterback, Alex Smith, was the type of player that would rarely make the type of mistakes that would cost his team the game. On Sunday, Smith made two of those "fatal errors" but the Dallas defense failed to seize the opportunity and make him pay. This alone resulted in a 14-point swing in the final score.

The first missed opportunity came early in the game. On Kansas City's first possession Smith misfired on a pass, throwing behind Dwayne Bowe. Safety Will Allen had good coverage on the play and found himself in excellent position to record his second interception of the young season. Instead he dropped the ball (with a little help from Bowe who turned defender), which allowed the drive to continue. A few plays later Alex Smith and the Chiefs staked themselves to a 7-0 lead. Had Allen pulled in the first mistake that Smith made, the Chiefs would have went in at halftime with no points on the scoreboard.

Moving on in the game, Smith once again presented a golden opportunity to Kiffin's charges. In an ill-advised attempt to get the ball to his tight end, Smith made his second faux pas. Linebacker Bruce Carter jumped the route and had nothing but God and Arrowhead's natural grass between him and the end zone. Although Carter got both hands on the football, he too failed to capitalize on Smith's error. While I am generally not one to assume results, there was no one who had a realistic opportunity to prevent Carter from taking the ball to the house. Smith's second fatal error should have resulted in a pick-six. Add in the extra point that Dan Bailey never got a chance to kick and you have seven points that the Cowboys let get away.

While my overall impression is that the Dallas defense played well enough for the team to win the the game, until Tony Romo and the offense start to click, "good enough" to win will not be sufficient to carry the Cowboys to victory.

Hatcher said he would have been pleased with the performance following a win. As he doesn’t need reminding, that wasn’t the case.

“They got two turnovers, and we’ve got to outplay their defense,” he said. “If they got two turnovers, then we’ve got to get four.”

Had Dallas made Smith pay for just one of his mistakes, the Cowboys would have returned home with a perfect 2-0 record and sole possession of first place in the NFC East. This team, and every player on it, must seize each opportunity that comes their way. Unfortunately, on Sunday they missed a chance to make a bold statement that this group can and will drive a dagger into the heart of their opposition at every chance. We can only hope that, by the end of the season, Dallas manages to put enough distance between themselves and the rest of the division so that they are not haunted by what could have been.

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