Big plays killing Dallas' pass defense

IRVING, Texas -- One of the premises of Monte Kiffin’s Tampa 2-intensive scheme is to prevent the big play.

That’s been one of the biggest problems for a Dallas Cowboys pass defense that’s on pace to allow more than 5,000 yards.

The Cowboys have given up 20 receptions of 20-plus yards, with opponents gaining a total of 658 yards on those plays. Only three teams have allowed more. It’s an issue that reared its head in Week 1, when the focus was on the five turnovers the Dallas defense forced to key the win against the New York Giants, and really came back to bite the Cowboys in the past two week’s losses.

“I mean, I sat here before you guys after we beat the Giants and I said I wasn’t satisfied because of the big plays,” cornerback Orlando Scandrick said. “And I said big plays will get you beat. And now we’re here four weeks later, and we’re giving up a ton of big plays and we’re 2-3.”

Why are the big plays happening? It certainly isn’t for a lack of trying to prevent them. The Dallas safeties often line up almost 20 yards off the line of scrimmage.

There is a lot of talk about adjusting to the new scheme. Cornerback Morris Claiborne, in particular, made note of it after his rough day in San Diego.

However, it seems like it’s close to a consensus opinion that such talk doesn’t fly five games into the season.

“We got to get better. Got to get better in a hurry,” cornerback Brandon Carr said. “It’s a bit of a learning curve, trying to learn the ins and outs of this defense, but right now it’s no more excuses, man. We have enough ballgames under our belt that we should know our assignments on the field, our details.”

Added Scandrick: “I didn’t see this coming at all. I mean, I felt like we had a great group of payers, we had a great scheme. We do have a great scheme. I feel like we need to adjust to it.”

The biggest problem Kiffin sees (or was willing to publicly identify): Players are trying to do too much.

“The players really do want to win bad,” Kiffin said. “They’re hustling their butt off. Sometimes you want to do so well and play so hard, but you have to play hard every week, and you try to do too much. If you try to do too much, you have to just do my job. Just take care of my responsibility. If you try to make someone else’s play, then you just can’t do that.”