Can't blame Tony Romo for this mess

CHICAGO -- Don't try to blame this particular loss on quarterback Tony Romo.

Don't even think about it, OK? This was bigger than Romo.

The Dallas Cowboys' raggedy defense gave him -- and the team -- no chance to win Monday night at Soldier Field.

Abject. Pathetic. Shameful. Pitiful. Embarrassing.

Pick any adjective you want, and it's appropriate when describing yet another woeful defensive performance by the Cowboys this season.

Chicago 45, Dallas 28.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to lose by 17 points on a night when the offense commits zero turnovers, the quarterback throws three touchdown passes and the running back gains more than 140 yards?

But this is what happens when a bad defensive scheme is merged with a collection of faux stars and dudes off the street.

Now, the surging Philadelphia Eagles, winners of five straight, have sole possession of first place in the NFC East. For the Cowboys to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009, they probably need to win each of their last three games.

That means beating Green Bay next week, when Aaron Rodgers might return after missing the last five games with a broken collarbone; taking care of Washington, which already has quit on its season; and finishing with a home win over Philadelphia.

"It feels like you gotta win out," Romo said.

The Cowboys drove 75 yards and scored on their first possession to take a 7-0 lead on Dez Bryant's 2-yard catch.

It was a perfect we-don't-care-about-the-frigid-temperature drive. After all, it was 8 degrees at kickoff (with a wind chill of minus-10), the coldest regular-season game in franchise history.

Then the defense laid down.

Chicago scored on all eight of its drives, save for a game-ending kneel down, as owner/general manager Jerry Jones' franchise was humiliated before a national television audience for the second time in four games. A month ago, New Orleans beat Dallas 49-17 on a Sunday night.

We're talking about a Chicago team that had lost three of its previous four games and had not scored more than 23 points in any of them. Journeyman quarterback Josh McCown led the Bears to 24 points at halftime.

Here's the worst part: Linebacker Sean Lee, defensive end DeMarcus Ware and defensive tackle Jason Hatcher all played.

None made a difference.

This defense has yielded at least 490 yards in a game five times this season. No other team has done it more than twice.

The Cowboys have allowed an NFL record four 400-yard passers, and three times they have allowed 200 yards rushing. Chicago became the third team to score more than 40 points against defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's unit.

Ridiculous. "We just gotta go back and work and fix it," head coach Jason Garrett said. "We've responded well on a couple different occasions and we simply have to do that. We'll look at what we're playing and we'll look at who's involved, but we have to look at the tape before we make those assessments."

There's not a single thing the Cowboys can do to fix this defense until the offseason, when they can fire Kiffin and upgrade the talent. Until then, the offense must elevate its performance. Romo passed for only 104 yards but finished with a passer rating of 109.2. DeMarco Murray rushed for 146 yards.

And it wasn't nearly enough.

The defense was so bad that Romo knew after a couple of possessions the Cowboys' only chance was to score every time they get the ball. Since Romo wasn't going against the Cowboys' defense, that was pretty much impossible.

That's why Garrett opted to try to score with 1:27 left in the half and Chicago leading 17-14. The Bears were getting the ball to start the third quarter, and Dallas hadn't come close to stopping them.

After a 10-yard completion on first down, Romo threw three consecutive incompletions. The entire drive took just 28 seconds off the clock.

Then the Bears drove 60 yards in five plays, capping the drive on a sensational catch by Alshon Jeffrey over B.W. Webb and Jeff Heath in the back of the end zone for a 24-14 lead.

McCown finished with 348 yards passing and four touchdowns. Oh, he scrambled 7 yards for another touchdown.

"It was certainly a disappointing loss for everybody, and the loss stings," Garrett said. "The worst thing we can do is have a hangover after this loss. It's a short week and somehow, someway, when the wheels touch down tonight we have to get back to work and clean up what happened and get ready for Green Bay. You have to shake this one off."

Whatever. This defense has been a joke the entire season. No tangible evidence exists that will change the past three games.