Cowboys’ defense unhinged by Bears

ARLINGTON, Texas – It’s a good thing the Cowboys opened a Victoria’s Secret store inside the stadium Monday night because their defense got undressed.

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s No. 1-ranked unit never got the big stops or made the big plays to keep the Cowboys in a 34-18 Bears runaway in the second half.

The Cowboys did have the excuse of missing four starters to injury. When linebacker Bruce Carter missed much of the first half with a hip injury, that number grew to five.

Even with the injuries and quarterback Tony Romo tossing five interceptions, the defense wasn’t looking to make excuses. Two of the Bears’ touchdowns were on interception returns, but much of the rest was on the defense.

“Defensively, we’ve just got to play better football,” inside linebacker Sean Lee said. “We’ve got to cut out bad plays, we’ve got to cut out big plays. We’ve got to cut out that bad football in this bye week and be the defense we know we can be.”

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has been known to get rattled under pressure, yet the Cowboys barely put any on him. Cutler was sacked twice for minus-eight yards but was a sparkling 18-of-24 passing for 267 yards and two touchdowns.

The Cowboys caught a break when Bears running back Matt Forte limped into Texas with a bad ankle. Forte managed 52 yards on 14 carries, but that didn’t stop the Bears from converting seven of 12 third downs.

“It would be great to get some guys back (from injury) because we know how talented they are,” Lee said. “But at the same time I think we have a lot of faith in the guys who have stepped up.”

Last week Ryan made the most of an injury situation by putting high-priced cornerback Brandon Carr on passing downs and letting third corner Mike Jenkins cover Tampa Bay’s dangerous Vincent Jackson.

This week, the injuries only served to reveal holes. Carr moved back to corner with Jenkins playing safety in spots. Carr matched up with Brandon Marshall most of the night and Carr lost that battle: seven catches, 138 yards and a touchdown.

On the defensive front, the Cowboys continued to miss nose tackle Jay Ratliff (high ankle sprain) and defensive end Kenyon Coleman (knee). On Monday, they found out outside linebacker Anthony Spencer would not play because of a strained pectoral muscle suffered in the days leading up to the game.

The secondary was missing safety Barry Church who was lost for the season last week with a torn Achilles tendon. Third-year man Danny McCray got his first career start in place of Church.

Victor Butler played in place of Spencer and was credited with one combined tackle and a fumble recovery.

“The guys that are getting in, they know what’s going on. They know how to play football,” said McCray, who had four tackles and two assists. “The frustrating part is we need to get out there and make more plays than we’re doing now. We need to get more takeaways, that’s a big stat in the league. We might be at the bottom of that.”

From top to bottom. The Cowboys ranked No.1 defensively after allowing 250 yards a game in the first three games. After the fourth game, the defense finds itself looking for answers.

“When we play the right way, every single play, we’re a very, very good defense,” Lee said. “But the key is to be able to do that non-stop, consistently and that’s something we’re battling right now.”

Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire