Dallas Cowboys: Talented defense has been a major disappointment

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - DECEMBER 05: Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky #10 of the Chicago Bears rushes for a touchdown over the defense of defensive end Michael Bennett #79 of the Dallas Cowboys in the fourth quarter of the game at Soldier Field on December 05, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - DECEMBER 05: Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky #10 of the Chicago Bears rushes for a touchdown over the defense of defensive end Michael Bennett #79 of the Dallas Cowboys in the fourth quarter of the game at Soldier Field on December 05, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit

Jason Garrett’s club has now dropped three straight games and the Dallas Cowboys defensive unit has to take its share of the blame.

It was a unit that appeared to be on the rise. After years of being carried by the running game and an all-star laden offensive front, the Dallas Cowboys defense was beginning to get its due. Led by a lot of young talent throughout the unit, the club made big strides a year ago and was a big reason the team won a third NFC East title in five years.

With emerging performers such as defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch and cornerback Byron Jones, things were looking up for the “D” in “Big D.”

But entering Week 14 and what would be a 31-24 Thursday night loss to the Bears at Chicago, the Cowboys were ranked eighth in the NFL in fewest total yards allowed and passing yards allowed. Rod Marinelli’s unit was just 16th against the run and that proved to be an issue at Soldier Field as Chicago finished the evening with 151 yards on the ground.

More from NFL Spin Zone

While it’s been popular to point the finger at either/or head coach Jason Garrett and quarterback Dak Prescott for the club’s issues, whatever happened to the defense that was on the rise? Yes, Vander Esch has been sidelined the last few weeks but that does not explain everything.

With few exceptions, this side of the football had played pretty respectfully during the club’s 5-3 start. Dallas’ defenders surrendered only 14 offensive touchdowns and 318.1 total yards per game. The Cowboys allowed only 142 points, a mere 17.6 per contest.

Fast forward to these last five games and Marinelli’s unit is allowing more yards per game (339.2), has given up 15 offensive touchdowns (10 through the air) and a total of 125 points, 25.0 per outing. After forcing a modest 12 turnovers in their first eight games, Garrett’s club has two takeaways in their last five outings — both of those in the loss to the Bears.

At 6-7, the Dallas Cowboys are still in first place in the NFC East. That may not be saying a lot when it comes to the team’s chances of getting to the Super Bowl. But they still win the division, host a playoff game and possibly get hot at the right time.

Next. NFL Playoffs: Predicting postseason bracket at Week 14. dark

But that possibility is made a lot more difficult by the fact that Garrett’s team can’t seem to stop another team consistently. And that’s not the kind of problem any club can endure and be successful.