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DETROIT — Darian Thompson wore a loss on his face.
He quietly stood at his locker Sunday, among the last defensive backs to dress. He spoke softly, the disappointment dripping from his words, as music blasted nearby from a sound system that defensive lineman Michael Bennett operated.
This was a winning locker room.
Deejay aside, in the defense’s area, it didn’t sound like one.
“First off, I’ll start with me,” Thompson said. “I’ve got to be better. I gave up too many plays today, me personally. As a unit, we’ve just got to continue to fight, continue to scratch and claw. Be consistent with our execution.”
For stretches Sunday, Dallas performed as it should against a Detroit Lions offense without its franchise quarterback. It pressured. It forced three-and-outs. It controlled. But two early touchdowns on short fields and too many explosive plays in the second half kept a 35-27 win far closer than it should have been.
At Ford Field, this performance was enough.
At Gillette Stadium next Sunday against the New England Patriots, it almost certainly wouldn’t be.
“Not good enough,” cornerback Chidobe Awuzie said. “We allowed too many touchdowns to a team like that with a quarterback [Matthew Stafford] injured. We lost last week. Usually, we respond well. I don’t think we responded well enough today.
“It wasn’t good enough tackling. We let them kind of run on us. They completed a couple passes for touchdowns. … I don’t think it was good enough today as a whole defense.”
There were a share of lowlights.
Thompson, Awuzie and linebacker Leighton Vander Esch each missed a tackle on a 22-yard catch by Lions running back J.D. McKissic in the second quarter. That was one of a season-high seven plays exceeding 20 yards the Cowboys allowed. Five of those seven occurred in the second half.
By comparison, the Cowboys entered Sunday having allowed five 20-yard plays in a game just once in 2019. That came during their miserable Oct. 13 loss to the New York Jets.
Thompson and safety Xavier Woods were the nearest defenders in zone coverage on the Lions’ longest gain, a 39-yard strike from Jeff Driskel to Marvin Hall. The second-longest play was a 34-yard jump ball that Driskel chucked for wide receiver Kenny Golladay. A leaping Thompson was unable to break up the pass late in the fourth quarter of a one-score game.
But the defense immediately responded.