As the season-ending injuries continued to pile up on the Dallas Cowboys’ defense, the effectiveness of Rob Ryan’s group steadily decreased. The argument could be made that Ryan, the team’s defensive coordinator who was fired Tuesday, shouldn’t be ridiculed for the way the defense played down the stretch because it was missing several key contributors.
But while assessing the play of the Cowboys’ defense during an interview that aired Wednesday night, Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones pointed to its poor play earlier in the year when the unit was nearly at full strength.
“I didn’t like the way we were playing in a lot of cases,” Jones said in the recorded interview that aired on FOX Sports Southwest. “I thought we could play better before the injuries, and so I factored that in. It wasn’t like we had a lot of injuries out here when we played Chicago. It wasn’t like we had a lot of injuries when we played Seattle.
“I didn’t like the way we played there. So, it’s not hard for me to go to those games and say what can we do to improve when we played Seattle and when we played Chicago. Now, I liked the way we played in some subsequent games and I know that we didn’t have the talent level on the field that we had when we played Seattle and Chicago.”
The Cowboys’ defense allowed 315 yards in a 27-7 loss to Seattle in Week 2. It allowed 360 yards in a 34-18 loss to Chicago two weeks later. The Cowboys allowed 312.5 yards per outing during the first eight games and 398.3 during the last eight.
“But it’s not hard for me to go back there and say, ‘OK, we had all of our players out there, we had our talent level there,’ that we’ve been saying we didn’t have,” Jones added. “Now let’s evaluate that. When we had all of our talent level, we’ve got to be able to beat Chicago at home and we’ve got to be able to go to Seattle and win that game there.
“We know they’re formidable. We know Seattle had a good football team and I don’t think we underestimated Seattle at all when we played them. But you’re going to have to – to get to where we want to go – you have to go into Seattle and win games in Seattle.”
Defensive starters Barry Church, Kenyon Coleman, Jay Ratliff, Bruce Carter and Sean Lee all had their seasons cut short because of injuries. Ratliff did not play in either of the games Jones referenced. Anthony Spencer did not play against Chicago.