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Hole truth: Cowboys struggling vs. run

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys' defensive linemen skipped right past the congratulations after Sunday's 23-13 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

They'll take the win, but another subject dominated the conversation in the row of lockers on the right of the entrance to the showers in the spacious home locker room at Cowboys Stadium. The defensive line was collectively disturbed and disgusted by one statistic: the Seahawks' 162 rushing yards.

"We ain't too happy about this one," defensive end Marcus Spears said as he prepared to leave the locker room.

Replied nose tackle Jay Ratliff, shaking his head: "We're better than that."

They certainly were for the first six games of the season. In fact, Dallas had the most dominant run defense in the NFL at that point, allowing a league-low 69.7 yards per game. Suddenly, it's become a glaring issue that the fellas up front are determined to get fixed.

The Cowboys allowed a total of 418 rushing yards and 3.3 per carry in their first six games. They've been gashed for 401 yards and 5.9 per carry in the past two weeks.

Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy lit up the Cowboys for 185 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries, the biggest rushing game allowed by Dallas in more than a decade. Seattle's Marshawn Lynch also made his fantasy football owners happy a week later, rushing for 135 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.

The Cowboys better solve the problem soon. The Buffalo Bills and NFL rushing leader Fred Jackson are coming to town next.

First, the Cowboys have to figure out what's gone wrong with a facet of the game that was such a strength through six games.

"I don't really know, but I guarantee you this: We're going to find out what it is and we're going to get it fixed. Period," said Ratliff, who was credited with only one tackle against the Seahawks. "We're not doing something right.

"Maybe it's something as small as we're not staying square in the running game or something simple like that. But we know it's something physical. We're going to sit down together as a unit and we're going to get it fixed. That's all there is to it."

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan wants to take the blame, claiming that most of the big plays came on bad calls, but that's mostly bogus.

Sure, opponents have a better book on the fronts Ryan likes to use with the Cowboys than they did early in the season. They're often checking at the line of scrimmage to attack the "bubble" in the defense.

But the bigger problem is that Ryan's "bullies," as he dubbed the Dallas defensive linemen a breath before the infamous "all-hype team" jab, suddenly aren't living up to their billing.

"We've just got to do it better, man," said Spears, a starter whose name didn't appear on the stat sheet. "I don't really know if it's [that] Rob can call a better defense. We've just got to do it better up front as players."

OK, it definitely doesn't help that inside linebacker Sean Lee had to sit out the past seven quarters due to a dislocated wrist. The hope is that Lee can play next week against Buffalo, but it wouldn't matter if the Cowboys had Lee Roy Jordan in his prime at linebacker if the defensive line can't control its gaps.

The Cowboys got away with a poor performance against the run Sunday, when sorry Seattle quarterback Tarvaris Jackson threw three picks. That gave Ryan reason to shrug off a second straight week of his bunch getting its lips bloodied.

"All we want to do is win the game," Ryan said. "I know stats. I don't give [an expletive] about stats. I was fine with the way we played. Not fine with 5.4 a carry, but whatever. … We'll be fine. Nothing to panic about."

Maybe not, but it's no way to make a run for a playoff berth, either. The bullies know that, which is why they weren't celebrating Sunday's win. They've got work to do.

Tim MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.