Because of injuries, the Cowboys played much of the game with five defensive starters sidelined. Among that group, only safety Barry Church – out for the season with a torn Achilles – is not expected back for the team’s next game, Oct. 14 at Baltimore.
The list of anticipated returnees includes Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff, who has missed the team’s first four games with a high ankle sprain, as well as linebacker Anthony Spencer (pectoral muscle) and defensive end Kenyon Coleman (knee). All three were inactive against Chicago and linebacker Bruce Carter missed much of the game with a hip ailment but later returned.
“Obviously, we want to get those (missing) guys back because they’re great players. Guys like Jay (Ratliff), we really rally around,” said inside linebacker Sean Lee.
Lee stressed that replacements for the injured starters have “done a good job” but the unit has lacked consistency despite ranking fourth among NFL teams in total defense, allowing 277.5 yards per game. He cited a need for a more consistent pass rush and more turnovers created by the defense. Lee also cited the upcoming bye week as an opportunity to brush up on fundamentals.
“We needed to get more pressure,” Lee said. “That’s on me and on the front seven. We’ve got to find a way to be that consistent defense. That takes a lot of work and this bye week will be good for us. We can put the work in … I know we’re a better team than we showed (against Chicago). But we have to go out there and show it every week. We have to go out there and prove it. Until we do that, we’re not going to win football games.”
Cornerback Brandon Carr agreed. Carr blamed the defense for not doing its share in allowing the Cowboys to build a minus-7 turnover ratio through four games, next-to-last among NFL teams.
“We need more as a defense. We need more turnovers,” Carr said. “We had a lot of success in the pre-season. We’ve got to find that and get it back and try to get the ball back (more often). That’s the bottom line. I don’t even know what our turnover ratio is. But I know it’s not good.”
In terms of missing injured starters, Carr said that cannot be an excuse.
“We’ve got to have the next man up mentality. This is the National Football League. Everybody’s here for a reason,” Carr said. “Once you get behind and you feel the momentum shifting, you’ve got to find a way to make a play … even when it looks gloomy.”
_ Jimmy Burch