- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys’ defense stunk it up so badly Sunday night that Rob Ryan’s swagger took a temporary hit.
That tends to happen to even the most confident defensive coordinators when they get lit up by rookie quarterback/running back combos in consecutive weeks.
“Oh, yeah, there’s no question,” Ryan said Friday. “I was beat down every way you can be beaten. … When teams are running the ball on you and throwing it with success, it’s not fun to be a defensive coordinator.”
The reasons for the Dallas defense’s dreadful recent performance – such as four starters being on injured reserve and nose tackle Jay Ratliff out again this week – really don’t matter. It’s on Ryan to get it right, regardless of the circumstances.
“No excuse, we didn’t play worth a crap,” Ryan said. “We haven’t played great the last three weeks obviously. We haven’t even played good the last three weeks, and that’s on everybody. That’s on coaches and players to step our thing up and play better on defense.”
Ryan has been a bit under the weather this week, but his swagger has recovered. Or at least he’s putting on a brave face, claiming that he’s ready for the challenge against a Bengals offense that ranks 10th in the NFL in scoring (25.2 points per game).
It’s his job to put the players he has left in position of succeed. The Dallas defense still features some impressive talent, headlined by outside linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer and cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne.
Ryan needs to keep the game plan simple enough for relative newcomers to execute, but it’s unacceptable for offenses to continue moving the ball at will.
“We’ve got to play better obviously,” Ryan said. “We can’t count on our offense scoring 40 points every game. We want to be a part of this. As bad as everything has gone, we’ve been 3-1, not with a lot of help from us, and we plan on helping out.
“This is a great opportunity for us. We know it’s a huge game. We’re excited about it.”