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Carter, Cowboys need bounce-back against Manning

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IRVING, Texas (AP)

(Eds: Updates with details, quotes. With AP Photos.)By SCHUYLER DIXONAP Sports Writer

Bruce Carter picked a bad week to have a bunch of bad plays show up on film.

The Dallas Cowboys linebacker is about to face Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

Or maybe that's the good news. Maybe Carter won't be singled out.

''I think he may target everybody,'' Carter said with a smile when asked if he figured Manning might pick on him Sunday.

''It's Peyton Manning. You've got to be on your Qs at all times and just play.''

Carter says he didn't do either in the worst game of the season for the Dallas defense - a 30-21 loss to San Diego last week.

The third-year player was beaten for touchdowns twice and benched in the second half. He wasn't making excuses either, even acknowledging that he's splitting snaps with Ernie Sims this week and might not start when healthy for the first time since his rookie season.

''I would say it's one of the worst games I've had since I was a Cowboy,'' Carter said. ''I was just all over the place and I kind of didn't read my keys like I should have and I didn't zone in and focus.''

He wasn't the only problem.

While Sean Lee had a 52-yard interception return for Dallas' final points late in the first half, he struggled on a play that helped San Diego put away the game - a 56-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Gates.

Morris Claiborne was beaten several times at cornerback, another step back in what is becoming an up-and-down career for the former No. 6 overall pick.

The refrain was familiar in the Dallas locker room this week with all the talk about Manning and his 16 touchdowns with no interceptions.

''I think it's ridiculous to say `I'm going to go out today and nobody's going to go out and catch a ball on me,''' Claiborne said. ''That's ridiculous. Everybody gets balls caught on them each and every day. I don't care who you are, playing corner. It's what you do after. You have to bounce back.''

The biggest concern for Dallas is that poor pass defense is something of a trend this year. The Cowboys have already given up 400-yard passing games twice, first to Eli Manning in the opener against the Giants and last week against Philip Rivers.

The Cowboys are tied for last in passing touchdowns allowed with 10 and rank 27th in passing defense - just the kind of numbers that don't look good against the best passing team in the league.

''I think you've just gotta hang in there and minimize the explosion plays,'' defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said. ''And you just gotta line up and play the next play.''

While pass defense is all the talk this week, run defense is actually the best indicator of wins and losses so far for Dallas. The Cowboys are giving up less than 45 yards rushing per game in their two wins and 113 per game in the two losses.

They had another problem against the Chargers. They couldn't get to Rivers, finishing with a season-low one sack.

In Carter's mind, a wake-up call before Manning's arrival might be a good thing.

''Once you've had a bad game, you're really focused,'' Carter said. ''You're really on your Ps and Qs and you're really in tune to the game. And you definitely can't go backward. Your back is against the wall, so you've got to go forward.''

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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Follow Schuyler Dixon on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apschuyler

Tagged: Cowboys, Broncos, Giants, Chargers, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Bruce Carter

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