ARLINGTON, Texas -- The easy thing to do about the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive showing Sunday is point to Sean Lee’s absence.
Rod Marinelli was having none of it after the Los Angeles Rams put 35 points and 412 yards on his defense.
“That’s no excuse,” the defensive coordinator said. “We have to play. That’s what we have to do.”
Lee, the Cowboys’ defensive leader, did not play because of a hamstring strain suffered against the Arizona Cardinals last Monday. He did not practice during the week and did not go through any pregame warmup to test the injury.
The Cowboys did not want to rush Lee in any way to turn a potential one-week absence into a four-to-five-week absence if he strained the muscle more.
But his absence Sunday was noticeable, especially in the second half, when the Rams scored on five of their six possessions before Jared Goff ended the game by taking a knee.
The Cowboys did a respectable job on Todd Gurley in the first half -- 10 carries, 41 yards -- but Gurley picked up 80 yards on 13 carries in the second half to become the second runner in three weeks to run for more than 100 yards against the Cowboys. C.J. Anderson had 118 yards rushing in the Denver Broncos’ 42-17 win.
“I just think they started running the ball, had really good tempo on us,” Marinelli said. “Give them a lot of credit too, now. I thought they came out with a good plan. I thought their tempo was really good. Kind of wore us [down] a little bit. Ran the ball well. Once the run starts, it’s hard.”
The run worked so well that Goff threw for 172 yards on 9-of-18 passing in the second half. After recording six sacks against the Arizona Cardinals, Dallas was able to get to Goff just once Sunday.
DeMarcus Lawrence recorded that sack, giving him 7.5 on the season, one shy of his career high, and he forced a fumble, but Rob Havenstein was able to get to the loose ball before Tyrone Crawford.
On the Rams’ final scoring drive, which increased their lead to a five-point advantage, Anthony Brown missed a sure interception of Goff. Instead of giving the Cowboys the ball inside Rams territory, Los Angeles was able to eat up 5:16.
“When I saw the ball, I stopped too early,” Brown said. “It was higher than I expected and I just grazed it barely. But that play is going to haunt me for the rest of the week probably. If I make that pick, we win the game easy.”
But he didn’t make the pick, and the Cowboys didn’t make enough plays.
The Cowboys allowed more than 412 yards in a game just three times in the regular season in 2016. They never gave up more than 30 points in a game.
“We’ve got a lot to clean up,” cornerback Orlando Scandrick said.
The good news is Lee might be able to return next week to play the Green Bay Packers, even if they wouldn’t use his absence as an excuse Sunday.
“We’ve just got to get better, man,” Brown said. “We’ve just got to stop making excuses for everything, stop making explanations and just work. Just get the job done. That’s it.”