Defensive woes cause Cowboys to lose consecutive games despite scoring 30 points

Which side of the ball is costing the Cowboys most? (2:01)

Max Kellerman blames the Cowboys' offensive line for their struggles, but Stephen A. Smith and Donovan McNabb focus on Dallas' 29th ranked defense as the culprit. (2:01)

FRISCO, Texas -- As the Dallas Cowboys pick through the wreckage of their 35-31 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, there has been an indictment of the coaches’ game management.

Specifically, what the Cowboys did on second-and-2 from the Green Bay 11 with 1 minute, 25 seconds to play. Instead of calling a running play that could have forced the Packers to use their final timeout or bled more clock, quarterback Dak Prescott followed the pass option, and his fade to wide receiver Dez Bryant was incomplete.

Prescott scored on the next play to give the Cowboys a 31-28 lead with 1:13 remaining, but just about everybody in the building wondered aloud if there was too much time on the clock for Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

There was. Rodgers won the game with a touchdown pass to Davante Adams with 11 seconds to play.

“Obviously, when you get down there close, your sole objective is to score a touchdown,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “You’re down by four in the game. If you can somehow score a touchdown on the last play of the game and give them no time, that’s fantastic. But you have to be careful about being too cute there. You have to give yourself a chance to win the ball game, first and foremost, by scoring a touchdown, and we were able to do that.”

The game management should be discussed, but it has obscured the inability of the defense to make a play when it matters most for the second straight week. Perhaps Garrett should stop trusting his defense until they learn to make the critical plays.

After Prescott drew the Cowboys within 32-30 with 7:11 to play against the Los Angeles Rams last week, the defense allowed a 12-play, 68-yard drive that took up 5:16 and ended in a field goal, requiring a touchdown drive to win -- one that never came. On Sunday, they could not hold a 31-28 lead with 73 seconds to play.

As a result, the Cowboys are the second team in NFL history to lose consecutive games at home despite scoring at least 30 points in both games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The 2012 Detroit Lions lost back-to-back games when scoring 31 and 33 points.

Since the Cowboys switched to the 4-3 scheme in 2013, they have had six losses in which the offense has scored at least 30 points. Dating back to 2010, the Cowboys have 11 losses in which they have scored 30 or more points, which is the most in the NFL. The New Orleans Saints have the second most with nine.

“We don’t finger point in this locker room,” Ezekiel Elliott said. “We’re a family. When we’re down, they’re going to pick us up. When they’re down, it’s our job to pick them up.”

The defensive woes require the offense to be perfect. The Cowboys have scored points on 10 of their past 19 drives in the past two games. Unfortunately, the defense has allowed points on 14 of their past 18 drives, not including a kneel down by the Rams in the final seconds.

The Cowboys have been able to pressure the quarterback better than expected. DeMarcus Lawrence leads the NFL with a career-high 8.5 sacks. As a team, the Cowboys have 16 sacks, putting them on pace for 51 over the course of the season, which would be their most since they had 59 in 2008.

But the defense is built on taking the ball away and so far this season the Cowboys have just three takeaways, putting them on pace for 10 (when rounding up) for the season. They had 11 takeaways in 2015 when the Cowboys finished 4-12.

The Cowboys have not recorded a turnover since Jourdan Lewis intercepted Denver Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian when 1:59 remained in the third quarter of their 42-17 Week 2 loss. That covers a span of 213 snaps.

And then there is the run defense. A year ago, the Cowboys did not allow a 100-yard rusher and finished with the NFL's top-ranked run defense. They have allowed three 100-yard rushers this year: Denver’s C.J. Anderson, the Rams' Todd Gurley and Green Bay’s Aaron Jones, who finished with 125 yards on 19 carries.

“We weren’t as physical as we needed to be up front, weren’t as disciplined as we needed to be, we missed tackles,” Garrett said. “Again, they challenge you a lot of different ways. Sometimes you can get preoccupied with your attention solely being on No. 12 [Rodgers] and the weapons they have in the passing game. They can get into some situations where they can run the ball effectively and they were able to do that throughout the game.”

Maybe the attention of the Cowboys’ offense should have been more on No. 12 in that drive, but it is hard enough to keep the opposing team’s defense at the top of your mind.