Once the Jacksonville Jaguars took a 31-27 lead with 10:03 to play in the fourth quarter, the FOX broadcast showed a shot of Jayron Kearse taking his helmet off in frustration. It summarized the feeling that fans and the entire Dallas Cowboys team were experiencing.
The title is worded specifically with “frustration” because the Cowboys' defense has been great for most of the season and doesn’t deserve the title of “weakness.” Dan Quinn and his unit deserve better than that. However...
At one point, Dallas had a commanding 27-10 lead in the third quarter. It felt like the game was all but decided, and it was time to start thinking about putting in backups if they could score one more touchdown.
The Cowboys’ offense would proceed to throw an interception and have a drive end in a three-and-out. It’s fine. There shouldn’t be any worry because the defense has bailed out the offense when the production slows down or disappears.
Then suddenly, Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars were on a 21-0 run, with the strength of the 2022 Cowboys starting to crumble.
Injuries certainly contributed to Dallas’ defensive struggles on Sunday. Not only were they already missing Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis, and Johnathan Hankins, but Leighton Vander Esch left the game with a neck injury and never returned. His absence was felt as the Jaguars’ offense ran for 192 yards, specifically on outside runs where the defenders lost contain.
“Yeah, it’s football, you know. Things gonna happen,” Trevon Diggs said after the game. “But everybody gotta be ready, ya know, everybody gotta be held responsible for just getting in the game, knowing what they’re supposed to do, and just executing what we got. It’s unfortunate that injuries happen, we lost a couple guys, but ya know it’s next man up. We gotta keep it where it would be at.”
DaRon Bland is filling the void left by Lewis, collecting his team-leading fourth interception, but Kelvin Joseph continues to struggle. He surrendered 14 points on passes in his direction, one of which he bit on a double move for a 59-yard score.
As a team, the defense allowed 318 passing yards to Lawrence after not allowing an opposing quarterback to throw for more than 285. That came against the Los Angeles Rams and Matthew Stafford, with 75 yards coming on one play to Cooper Kupp. Their unit was ranked second in pass defense coming into Sunday.
The problem is the Cowboys do not have the depth to keep up with their injuries. It wouldn’t be as apparent if the pass rush would help, but unfortunately, Dallas has only registered one sack in two games. Carlos Watkins and Sam Williams had a shot to sack Lawrence but couldn’t bring him to the ground.
“Man, it’s bitter, but you know you gotta suck it up. I mean, we gotta finish this season strong,” Micah Parsons said to the media in his post-game interview. “Obviously not the game we wanna lose or how you wanna lose, but ya know this is a bitter one, but we gotta come out next week and finish these next couple of games strong.”
No one feels sorry for Dallas because every team in the NFL is dealing with injuries right now. It’ll be a battle of attrition because the Cowboys play their next two games in 11 days. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, the injuries plaguing them are happening to the strength of their team.