<
>

Cowboys defense can't come up with takeaways

IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys don’t see Sam Bradford again until Nov. 8. Their defense has to come up with a takeaway by then.

Bradford, the Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback, turned the ball over three times in the Cowboys’ win Sept. 20 at Lincoln Financial Field. The Cowboys did not have a takeaway in the season opener against the New York Giants, and they haven’t had a takeaway in the three games since beating the Eagles.

Last year the Cowboys’ 31 takeaways were second-most in the NFL. That masked some of the Cowboys’ deficiencies defensively in 2014 and gave the offense extra chances. The only game in which the Cowboys did not record a turnover last season came in the season opener.

Since Byron Jones deflected a Bradford pass to Zach Ertz into the arms of J.J. Wilcox with 4:29 left in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys have not forced a takeaway.

That’s the final 11 plays of the Eagles’ game, 69 plays against the Atlanta Falcons, 66 plays against the New Orleans Saints and 55 plays in Sunday’s loss to the New England Patriots.

In the past three games, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Tom Brady completed 74 percent of their passes against this defense.

To be fair, that’s two Hall of Fame quarterbacks in Brees and Brady, two of five quarterbacks in NFL history with 400 touchdown passes, and Ryan, whose team is undefeated.

But it’s not as though the Cowboys haven’t had opportunities. Morris Claiborne and Kyle Wilber missed chances at interceptions against Ryan. Tyler Patmon dropped a sure interception of Brees, as did Andrew Gachkar. A Barry Church interception was negated by a penalty.

Corey White had a rocket screen from Brady deflected off his hands. If he catches the pass, he scores a touchdown.

“We’ve had a lot of missed opportunities,” Church said.

Church missed a chance at a Brady fumble after a Greg Hardy sack in the second quarter. Instead of getting the ball near the New England 30, Patriots receiver Julian Edelman recovered the ball for a 2-yard gain.

“I was thinking dive on it because I felt people around me,” Church said. “Then it just gave me an on-side kick role and bounced straight up. And Edelman was right there to stick it right in his gut. That’s just another missed opportunity.”

Last year the Cowboys didn’t miss those opportunities. This year, they are.