During the first month of the 2019 season, the Dallas Cowboys defense was feeling pretty good about themselves. They were only allowing 14 points a game and held three of their four opponents under 20 points. Their most impressive stretch was during weeks 3-4 when they only gave up six field goals and no touchdowns in those two games. However, the last two weeks have been a little different as their play has left little to be desired.
When the Green Bay Packers came to town two weeks ago the Cowboys defensive unit had the difficult challenge of stopping Aaron Rodgers. What they weren't expecting was that another player with the same first name would make their Sunday a stressful one, and that was Aaron Jones. By halftime, he already had two touchdowns as the Packers held a commanding 17-0 lead, which quickly went to 24-0 with just over nine minutes left in the third.
Jones would have a career high 182 all-purpose yards (107 rushing, 75 receiving) and rush for four touchdowns on 26 total touches. With Jones consistently picking up chunks of yardage and moving the chains it never allowed the Cowboys defense to establish any rhythm. The Cowboys rush defense has been elite since 2016, finishing no lower than 8th in that category so these types of performances don't occur often.
Rodgers didn't throw a single touchdown but he didn't have to with Jones being so productive running the football. It allowed the Packers to possess the ball for over 37 minutes and hold off the Cowboys comeback attempt with a 34-24 victory.
Last Sunday against the New York Jets the Cowboys got back to doing what they do best on defense which is stop the run. They would hold Le'Veon Bell and company to only 56 yards on 20 carries.
Quarterback Sam Darnold made his return after being out since Week 1 with Mononucleosis. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, Darnold looked like he never missed any time at all. He had a career day with 338 yards and two touchdowns while connecting with seven different receivers.
The Cowboys stormed back in the second half but a failed two-point conversion in the final minute ended the game and gave them their third consecutive loss.
In back to back weeks, the Cowboys defense has allowed a player to have a career-best performance against them. Granted, this unit has been a little banged up with a few guys dealing with injuries but that's life in the NFL, every team deals with that. With the talent the Cowboys have on defense there shouldn't be issues with consistency. Yes, they play hard, in fact, there might not be a defense that swarms to the ball better than them. While maximum effort is key there has to be focus and discipline and this unit isn't showing that right now. The Cowboys need to figure things out on defense quickly with the Philadelphia Eagles coming to town this Sunday who feature a talented offense led by Carson Wentz.
If they can keep Wentz and the Eagles offense on the sidelines that will allow the Cowboys offense to play ball control with Ezekiel Elliott and set up the play-action passing game, which is their bread and butter.
First place in the NFC East is on the line and the Cowboys will need their defense to set a tone. Having a third consecutive underwhelming performance will find the Cowboys starting down the barrel of four straight losses heading into the bye week with the division rival New York Giants waiting when they return to action. We'll see if this unit can turn it around in a game that should be approached as a must-win.