ARLINGTON, Tex. – The injuries to key players, particularly on defense, are a fact of football life for the Bears. But after allowing 31 points and 447 yards to the Dallas Cowboys and rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, more yardage than in any game last year when the Bears did not allow 400 yards even once.
The defense has given up more points in the first three games of both 2015 and 2016 than it did in either of the two years of Marc Trestman/Mel Tucker defenses, record-setting disaster years for Bears defenses.
“We have to figure this out,” said linebacker Willie Young. “We better figure it out fast. It isn’t like we have a whole season ahead. We have to figure this out, like, yesterday… Quick, fast and in a hurry.”
[MORE GRADES: Brian Hoyer brings some life to offense, but too little, too late]
Dallas drove 10 plays for a touchdown and nine plays for a field goal in the first quarter, at which point the game was effectively over, given the Bears’ ineptitude on offense. The Cowboys added drives of 11 and 10 plays in the second half and had five possessions of nine plays or more, holding the football for four minutes or longer on each of their first half possessions, all ending in points.
“I wish I could point to one thing,” said defensive lineman Akiem Hicks. “It was a variety of things we have to shore up and tighten up on our end.”
The Bears managed exactly one tackle for loss on 65 Dallas offensive plays and one hit – zero sacks – on Prescott.
Defensive line: D-
Linemen failed to consistently win at the point of attack vs. running plays and too often got out of rush lanes, allowing Prescott easy escapes. Pressure on Prescott was non-existent from either base 3-4 or 4-3 nickel packages.
Will Sutton started for Eddie Goldman at nose tackle and had a pass deflection in the second quarter.
“What it really comes down to is assignment football,” Hicks said. “Stay in your gaps. Play your technique. …I think in some areas we were lacking, and that’s where they took advantage of it.”
With veteran and co-captain Danny Trevathan down with a thumb injury, the surprise decision was made to start rookie Nick Kwiatkoski at inside linebacker, alongside veteran Jerrell Freeman. Kwiatkoski missed most of training camp with a hamstring injury and played only in the fourth preseason game.
Leonard Floyd remains in the starting lineup and making plays, but also breaking down too often. His loss of contain, against a solid seal block by tight end Jason Witten, cost the Bears a shot at a fourth-down stop on the first Dallas possession. Floyd finished with five tackles, according to preliminary statistics.
Christian Jones was easily skirted by Prescott for a 17-yard scramble in the second quarter. Jones finished with three tackles but was a liability in pass coverage.
Freeman led the Bears with 12 tackles but linebackers did not contribute to pressure and were out of position on too many runs by Ezekiel Elliott, who finished with 30 carries for 140 yards plus 20 yards on two pass receptions.
Jacoby Glenn managed a pass breakup in the end zone but was badly beaten for a 29-yard completion on a third down in the second quarter, setting up a Dallas touchdown.
Chris Prosinski broke up a throw to Dez Bryant to force the Cowboys to settle for a third-down field goal. But Prosinski failed to come up in support on a slant to Bryant inside cornerback Tracy Porter and then whiffed on a tackle of Bryant.
The front was putting next to no pressure on Prescott but coverage was too often too late in reacting to the football. Prescott finished with 19-for-24 passing for 248 yards, no interceptions and a passer rating of 123.6.
“We went out and played hard,” Glenn said. “[Dallas] is a good team. They are all fighters. I think we played good. Pretty solid. We started out kind of slow but we got going.”
[SHOP: Get your Bears gear here]
Special teams: D
Connor Barth converted a 34-yard field goal in the second quarter. But overall special teams were unable to provide any help in field position for either the offense and defense.
Matters reached the point where long snapper Patrick Scales even was called for a false start on a second-quarter field goal. Barth converted the kick from five yards farther back (34 yards). The Bears then tried an onside kick, recovered the football, only to have linebacker Jonathan Anderson called for offsides.
Eddie Royal returned punts eight and nine yards.