- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- We interrupt all the screaming about a performance that pretty much summarizes why Tony Romo is the world’s most polarizing athlete to address the primary reason the Dallas Cowboys lost Sunday afternoon.
Concerned about Monte Kiffin’s defense?
“Knowing my expectations playing Denver and playing Peyton Manning coming in,” Jerry Jones said, “I’m going to cut him some slack.”
An NFL defense has never been so quickly forgiven for allowing 51 points. And a quarterback has never been more harshly criticized after leading his team to 48 points.
Romo’s one turnover was about as painfully poorly timed as possible, but it’s absolutely ridiculous to pin the blame for this loss on a quarterback who threw for a franchise-record 506 yards and five touchdowns.
An NFL team hasn't scored more points in a loss in the last 50 years, and that was actually an AFL game. Let’s call that indisputable evidence that this 'L' falls at the feet of a defense that has allowed three 400-yard passers in five games, including losses the past two weeks.
Get ready to cut Kiffin some slack on a regular basis. The Dallas defense still has to face Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford and Robert Griffin III twice during the rest of the regular season. That’s an MVP, a pair of 5,000-yard passers and a Rookie of the Year.
You’ll probably never hear this from Jerry, who made Rob Ryan the scapegoat for 8-8, but there is ample reason to fear that the game has passed the 73-year-old Kiffin by. He couldn’t figure out how to stop Pac-12 offenses at USC, and he’s appeared just as befuddled during his NFL return.
(By the way, Kiffin didn’t bother to make himself available to the media after the loss, but I’m pretty sure we could hear Ryan’s hooting and hollering about his New Orleans Saints’ 5-0 start all the way in Arlington.)
The Cowboys’ best hope to be a legitimate contender -- and not just win the weak NFC East -- is that this offense can prove itself capable of throwing haymakers with anyone in the league. That was certainly the case in Sunday’s last-team-to-get-the-ball-wins game.
“You leave this game and obviously you’re crushed and disappointed,” Jason Witten said, “But offensively, this needs to be the standard in which we play to give ourselves a chance to win.”
Witten didn’t mean that as a dig at the defense, but the shoe fits.
The positive spin here: We saw the potential of the Cowboys’ offense, even with Miles Austin sitting with a strained hamstring.
Give Romo respectable protection, and the Cowboys’ offensive line is capable of that on a consistent basis for the first time in years, and this should be an explosive option. The Cowboys feature a legitimate franchise quarterback with a lot of weapons at his disposal.
There’s not a better wide receiver-tight end duo in the league than Dez Bryant and Witten. Maybe a defense can take away one or the other, but it’s close to impossible to keep both from making plays.
The Broncos couldn’t stop either, with Bryant blowing up for 141 yards and two scores on six catches, and Witten going off for 121 yards and a touchdown on seven catches. And rookie Terrance Williams led the Cowboys in receiving yards with 151 on four catches, including an 82-yard touchdown in what might have been the third-round pick’s breakout performance.
DeMarco Murray and Cole Beasley scored touchdowns, too. And you can reasonably make the case that Romo outplayed a four-time MVP who is in the midst of the best stretch of a certain Hall of Fame career.
The shame: All those offensive fireworks went to waste because Kiffin’s defense got torched again.