The Bears defeated the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night before the ball was even kicked off, according to Chicago receiver Brandon Marshall, who thinks the chilly conditions affected the visiting team's psyche.
Marshall made the assessment based on observations of the Cowboys during pregame warmups at Soldier Field. Temperature at kickoff was 8 degrees, with a wind chill of minus-9 and 14 mph winds.
"We beat Dallas last night before the game started," Marshall said Tuesday during the "Jay Cutler Show" on ESPN 1000. "When it was [receiver] Alshon [Jeffery], myself, Earl Bennett and some of the other guys outside warming up pregame, there was only a handful of Dallas players. I looked around and I said, 'Man, we've got these guys.' "
The Bears racked up 490 yards of offense as Josh McCown tossed four touchdown passes and ran for another in a 45-28 thrashing of the Cowboys. Marshall led the way for the Bears with a game-high 100 yards on six receptions, while Jeffery contributed five grabs for 84 yards and a touchdown.
Bennett said the weather "wasn't that bad to me," and that "some guys just sucked it up. Pretty much the whole team didn't wear any sleeves."
On his radio show on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas Tuesday morning, Jones said, "First of all, he knows what's happening to us better than anyone. And if there are adjustments to be made, he's the right man for the job right now."
He saw Josh McCown throw for four touchdowns against Kiffin's defense. He saw Kiffin's defense give up 33 first downs and 490 yards. He saw Kiffin's defense allow the Bears to convert on eight of 11 third-down opportunities. If you're scoring at home, that's the sixth time teams have converted on at least half of their third downs in a game against Kiffin's defense.
Brandon Marshall had 100 receiving yards against Kiffin's defense. Matt Forte had 102 rushing yards against Kiffin's defense.
How does Jones have confidence in what Kiffin is doing?
"Well, I think that you realize you don't have a choice," Jones said immediately after the game. "We can do some things different out there. It's not as safe, but it could be more effective. Maybe get us a turnover when it could have made a difference and change the tide out there. But I'll assure you that we'll be doing some different things up against Green Bay. There'll be a little different cast of players out there up against Green Bay. But they used their assets very effectively, those big receivers, and to the quarterback's credit, he put it on them and we just couldn't defend it."
I'm not a certified decipherer of Jones-ese, but it sounds lile he wants Kiffin to gamble more, to be unsound if necessary. It sounds like he wants Kiffin to be (gulp) more like Rob Ryan. Jones lived in fear of all the exotic packages Ryan rolled out in 2011 and had the coordinator scale it back in 2012. He thought the players had to think too much and thus reacted slowly. Ryan was fired after last season.
Jones is like Goldilocks looking for the defense that's "just right." That's the problem. His convictions change too conveniently. If Ryan is too blitz happy, he wants to change. If Kiffin is too conservative, he wants to change.
The owner and general manager cannot be that fickle.
Kiffin's scheme has never been built on tricking people. It was built on great players making plays. He had great players playing for him in Tampa Bay. There's a chance three more of them could one day join Warren Sapp in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The defense is built on getting pressure with four players. It is built mostly on zone concepts. The Cowboys can't get pressure with four players right now and their corners play best in man-to-man, although Monday it did not matter what coverage they played.
The owner has paid a lot of money for pieces that do not fit or have not performed, and the general manager does not have enough pieces for Kiffin's scheme -- or Ryan's scheme -- to work well enough to just be presentable.
Preseason: 20 | Last Week: 11 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002
The Dallas Cowboys tumbled in the ESPN.com Power Rankings to No. 15 after their embarrassing 45-28 loss to the Chicago Bears on ESPN’s "Monday Night Football."
It is a wonder they did not slip further. And their main competition in the NFC East, the Philadelphia Eagles, climbed into the top 10 at No. 9 thanks to their fifth straight win. At this point, you have to wonder whether the Week 17 finale against the Eagles at AT&T Stadium will be for anything more than pride.
A week ago, Mike Sando and Kevin Seifert were the biggest believers in the Cowboys, moving them up to No. 9. This week they have them at No. 16 and Jamison Hensley gave the Cowboys the lowest grade, dropping them to No. 17.
The defense continues to be a mess and might not have Sean Lee or Bruce Carter this week. The offense has to play near perfectly to have a chance, and it has been close to perfect just once this year against the Denver Broncos.
If there is a good note for the Cowboys, it is that the No. 18 Green Bay Packers visit AT&T Stadium this week.
Wait, Aaron Rodgers might play? Never mind.
"Why you would ask that question?" defensive tackle Jason Hatcher said. "You answer that."
Matt Forte rushed for 102 yards on 20 carries. Bears quarterback Josh McCown threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns.
"We didn’t play a fundamentally sound game this week," defensive end DeMarcus Ware said.
"They schemed us well and they knew what was coming most of the time," Hatcher said. "It's no excuse. We have to execute better and play better. We got outplayed."
The defensive scheme seems flawed at times with Kiffin dropping back defensive linemen into pass coverage. He dropped defensive tackle Nick Hayden into coverage and he failed to tackle a scrambling McCown on the way for a seven-yard touchdown run. Hatcher also fell back into pass coverage.
Kiffin continues to start rookie Jeff Heath over rookie J.J. Wilcox at free safety.
Rookie cornerback B.W. Webb was covering Alshon Jeffery in the back of the end zone and as Jeffery was snagging a wondering throw by McCown for the score. Heath arrived to help and instead of trying to knock the ball out he tried to push Jeffery out of bounds.
"It's one of those plays where afterward obviously you would have done it differently," Heath said. "It happens. I felt at the time I could get a shot on him, maybe."
Webb appeared confused on another touchdown pass in zone coverage in the first quarter. It looked as if he was supposed to cover the underneath portion of the field. When he didn't it left Earl Bennett open to make a touchdown reception which tied the game at 7-7.
The Cowboys dropped two interceptions in the second half, one by Orlando Scandrick in the end zone and another by Bruce Carter. Sterling Moore picked off a pass two plays after Carter's failure to force a turnover, but it was negated by a holding call on Brandon Carr.
"The system is there it's got everything to do with executing properly," middle linebacker Sean Lee said. "You can't give up big plays and we gave up too many big plays. We didn't get off the field on third down, basic stuff."
Defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, praised for working with a banged up unit this season, said the group isn't frustrated.
"Just got to do our job," he said. "It ain't about frustrations. It's just do our job."
Lee, who had an MRI exam Tuesday, is suffering soreness and stiffness, sources told Werder.
But the Cowboys expect that after undergoing treatment to alleviate the symptoms, Lee will be able to play Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, according to sources.
The Cowboys consider Lee as day to day and do not think that the injury is a serious issue, a team source told ESPNDallas.com.
Lee suffered the injury in the third quarter of Monday night's 45-28 loss to the Chicago Bears. He missed the Cowboys' previous two games because of a hamstring injury suffered Nov. 10 against the New Orleans Saints.
Outside linebacker Bruce Carter, who injured his hamstring Monday, also had an MRI and is expected to miss Sunday's game, sources told Werder.
Lee has yet to play a full 16-game season since being drafted by Dallas in 2010.
The 27-year-old Lee missed two games as a rookie with a hamstring injury, one in 2011 with a dislocated wrist and 10 games last season with a toe injury that required surgery.
Dallas signed Lee to a six-year, $42 million extension in the offseason, with a $10 million signing bonus. Some of the money in the future is tied to Lee's playing time in 2013-14.
ESPN.com Cowboys reporter Todd Archer and ESPNDallas.com's Calvin Watkins contributed to this report.
Claiborne had been dealing with a hamstring injury but had to curtail some of his rehab work because of the family issue. The Cowboys weren't expecting Claiborne to play against the Chicago Bears on Monday night because he still wasn't physically ready to play.
"He's very close with his family," Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said on 105.3 The Fan on Tuesday morning. "Very close in Louisiana and suddenly his father passed away at a relatively young age. He was not what I wold call an older man. Having said that, it tore his world up so he immediately left to be with his family. We knew he wasn't going to play this week and that's besides the point. He wanted to be with his family and we're giving him all of the time that he needs there or wants."
On Dec. 8, Claiborne tweeted: "Man God be working. Took my daddy on Wednesday (Dec. 4) and gave me a beautiful little girl on Monday."
It's the second time this season a member of the defense lost a parent. Rookie safety J.J. Wilcox's mother passed away during training camp.
"One of my own guys caught me in a pile and later (I) got caught with my head down and I kinda slipped a little bit," Lee said. "I tried to keep coming back but I wasn’t really able to hit anybody. I hope I just bounce back and be ready for the next week."
In other injuries:
• Wide receiver/kick returner Dwayne Harris re-aggravated his pulled hamstring and missed a good portion of the second half.
• Linebacker Bruce Carter suffered a hamstring injury in the second half.
Kiffin's defense allowed Chicago to score on eight straight possessions. Backup quarterback Josh McCown threw for four touchdowns, and the Bears were 8-of-11 on third-down attempts.
"He takes it personally; it's hard on him," Jones said of Kiffin during his twice weekly radio show on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas. "Very hard on him. He's been doing this a long time.
"At his age , he's had a lot of different experiences. With all of that in mind, he's just got a resolve and he doesn't in any way reject the responsibility. As a matter of fact, he invites it all on himself."
After the loss, Jones said he wished the Cowboys (7-6) would trick up some of their defensive schemes and get more pressure on the quarterback to create turnovers.
When told of Jones' comments, Kiffin told ESPNDallas.com: "We blitzed early, you know, and tried to get some pressure and they got the ball off, and we mixed it pretty well."
The Cowboys used a mixture of man and zone coverages, but the secondary struggled to make plays. Chicago had five pass plays of 20 or more yards.
"To be doing what we're doing and to fix what we're doing, there's nobody I would rather have than him and [defensive line coach] Rod Marinelli," Jones said. "Where we are today, to get this fixed over the next, if you would, week or four or five days, the next three weeks, there's nobody I would rather have to get it fixed.
And while you believe the players, there were some offensive possessions during the Bears burst to building a 35-14 lead after three quarters that hurt the Cowboys.
"It's hard, they were clicking on everything and everything they were doing was on point," wide receiver Dez Bryant said catching two passes for 12 yards and one touchdown. "You have to give credit to them, they were on point. It’s a team thing you have to score points to help out our defense and that’s the way it goes."
The Cowboys did that in the early going and it seemed as if they were keeping pace with the Bears, even establishing a solid running game, which finished with starter DeMarco Murray finishing with 146 yards on 18 carries. But the Bears had two long scoring drives, seven minutes and 27 seconds to get their first touchdown of the game and a eight minute and 10 second drive that pushed them to a commanding 35-10 lead that limited the time the Cowboys spent on the field.
Quarterback Tony Romo said there wasn't an expectation the teams would be in a shootout given the weather situation. While the Bears scored on their first eight possessions, the Cowboys just couldn't keep up.
After scoring on their first possession of the game, the Cowboys punted on the next one after Romo was sacked on a third-and-seven when the offensive line failed to protect him on the blitz.
After tying the game on the third possession, the Cowboys passing game failed them.
Faced with a first-and-10 from the 39, Romo was hurt by a dropped pass by tight end Jason Witten. On second down, Romo threw a hard pass that sailed through the hands of Murray. On the third down, Terrance Williams couldn't make a contested catch while covered by cornerback Zack Bowman, who tipped the pass away.
On the ensuing possession, the Bears scored to push the lead to 24-14 at halftime.
"Its definitely not what we want," receiver Cole Beasley said, who also caught a touchdown pass. "We did a good job in the beginning and some possessions got away from us and they put some points up on the board and it kinda got to the point where it felt like catchup a little bit. It’s a disappointing day."
Chicago pushed their lead to 27-14 in the third quarter but the Cowboys went three-and-out on their first possession of the half. Romo's third down pass to Bryant sailed too high forcing the Cowboys to punt.
The Bears would score again, taking eight minutes off the clock and basically sealing the game. Dallas had one more legit try to make it a contest but again couldn't do anything offensively on their second possession of the second half as Romo threw an incomplete pass to Murray on fourth down from the Bears 41.
"We did a pretty good job," said Romo, who did throw three touchdowns. "We ran the ball, and we had a game plan coming in and we stuck to it, pretty much throughout the game. We executed a lot of things well, but ultimately, it wasn’t good enough and we have to be better."
In life, it's great when things aren't complicated. At Football Outsiders, it's no different. So when we ran our simulations, what a joy it was to see how polarized the playoff situation is in the NFC East. The New York Giants and Washington Redskins have been eliminated -- no simulations necessary there -- so only the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys remain in contention. And for both of those teams, a postseason berth rests on winning the division: Philadelphia and Dallas have a combined 4.0 percent chance of earning an NFC wild-card spot.
Heading into Week 15, Philadelphia has the upper hand over Dallas in terms of division-winning odds (64 percent to 36 percent), but they play each other in Week 17 (aka "Tony Romo's Latest Crucible"), and our projection model currently forecasts that game as a toss-up (52-48 in favor of Dallas). That may seem like putting the cart before the horse, but our simulations show the Cowboys to have a probability of winning their next two games (36.7 percent) that's virtually identical to Philadelphia's (34.5 percent). If you've been reading this column on a weekly basis, we've been saying since its inception that we would love to fast-forward directly to the main event in Week 17. The results of Week 14 didn't change that.
Here is the rest of the updated NFL playoff picture. You can find the full playoff odds report, including the odds of each team winning each of the six seeds, on FootballOutsiders.com.
AFC playoff projections
No. 1 Denver Broncos
Current record: 11-2 | Weighted DVOA: 28.8 percent
Projected wins: 13.2
Total Playoff odds: 100.0 percent | Weekly change: 0.0 percent
Denver clinched a playoff spot on Sunday, but that's a minor blip on the Broncos' radar. Their intermediate goal is home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, and their win over Tennessee (matching New England's win over Cleveland) kept Denver on par with where it entered the week (3-to-1 odds to earn the No. 1 seed). The Broncos continue to shed percentage points off of their once-legendary DVOA rating, but much of that can be attributed to regression to the mean: Their 42.5 percent peak in Week 8 was not sustainable. To boot, Denver's remaining schedule is a farce (vs. San Diego, at Houston, at Oakland), so the Broncos have an opportunity to reverse that trend.
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
Tyler Clutts. Who? The newly signed fullback played well on the opening series and was a solid blocker for starting running back DeMarco Murray. While the Cowboys stressed they didn't need a fullback this season, going with four running backs, the late signing of Clutts seemed to payoff.
DeMarco Murray. He benefited from the Clutts signing. Yet, Murray also did some good things on his own. He rushed for 146 yards on 18 carries, including 52 yards on the first scoring drive of the game. According to ESPN's Stats and Info group, Murray rushed for 111 yards before contact.
Dwayne Harris. Before he was shut down due to a hamstring injury, he returned four kickoffs for 103 yards. It was the fourth time this season Harris had more than 100 kick return yards. Harris also produced a nifty 43-yard return.
Monte Kiffin. The defense is sad. Very sad. The 4-3 scheme isn't working and while the players expressed confidence in it, it doesn't appear things are operating correctly. Jerry Jones said he wants more tricks and pressures on the quarterback. You know, like Rob Ryan used to do.
Pass defense. They had two dropped interceptions, a pick negated by a penalty and backup quarterback Josh McCown threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns. The secondary was bad and it's time to sit down rookie corner B.W. Webb and reduce the playing time of Jeff Heath.
Jason Garrett. Yes, there's only so much he can do, but he's responsible for this mess. The Cowboys had control over whether they would make the playoffs Now they're one-game behind first place in the NFC East. Garrett needs to make drastic changes or things will end as they always do, with the Cowboys watching the postseason from home.
They weren't as fortunate Monday against the Josh McCown-led Chicago Bears.
The Bears scored on their first eight possessions. For the Cowboys it fell apart late in the second quarter when they were trailing 17-14.
Taking over at their 29 with 1:27 to go in the first half the Cowboys were ready to use their hurry-up offense to get in position for a field goal or touchdown. Tony Romo had thrived in those situations of late and the drive got off to a good start with a first-down completion to Dez Bryant for 10 yards.
But Bryant got hurt on the play and the Cowboys were forced to take a timeout with 1:13 to play. Jason Witten could not hold on to Romo's next pass. On second down Romo threw a bullet to DeMarco Murray from close range that was incomplete. On third down Romo missed Terrance Williams and the Cowboys were forced to punt.
Chicago took over from its 40 with 47 seconds to play and needed just five plays and 37 seconds for Alshon Jeffery to out jump B.W. Webb and Jeff Heath for a 25-yard touchdown in the corner of the end zone to give the Bears s 24-14 halftime lead.
“The way the game was going, I feel like you need to put points on the board,” Romo said. “You have that opportunity, you feel like you needed to score points. We were trying to be aggressive in that situation. Obviously, it didn't work.”
While most of the focus of the loss was rightfully on the Cowboys defense, that drive highlighted the offensive problems.
“It's a team loss,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Let me make that abundantly clear. We didn't do enough offensively to win this ballgame. We didn't do enough in the kicking game to win this ballgame. We understand that and again when you play a game like that where you have to match them, you have to match them. And you can't go three and out and give them another opportunity before the half. You have to convert those third downs and keep drives alive. It's as simple as that.”
"This was not my coldest game," quarterback Tony Romo said, "but it was definitely a cold game."
Romo said he played in a minus 20 or 25 game while at Eastern Illinois.
"For the most part I felt comfortable," Romo said. "It was windy in spurts. When we cut through the wind we did some things well. I'd like one throw back."
That was a third-down throw on the Cowboys' opening possession of the second half in which he overthrew Dez Bryant.
"He ran a good route," Romo said. "The guy had inside leverage and Dez had an in-breaking route. As I looked at him I didn't think he was going to be able to cross his face. Dez ran a heckuva route to get in there. In the process I was going to throw it high so he could go around him high, thinking the defender was inside. He wrapped in there real good and at the last second I didn't pull it down as much as I needed to."
Neither team had a turnover despite the frigid temps.
"It was cold but it seemed like everyone handled the ball pretty well," coach Jason Garrett said. "The quarterbacks threw it fairly well. They were accurate and there weren't a lot of balls dropped our coming out of guys' hands. I thought collectively both sides did a good job with the ball."
The Cowboys have now lost the coldest regular-season game in franchise history and the coldest game overall in team history. The coldest game remains the Ice Bowl, the 1967 NFL Championship in which they lost 21-17 in minus-13 degree temperatures.