IRVING, Texas - Bruce Carter and the Dallas Cowboys simply couldn't stop Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers.
That will be their freshest memory when Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos visit on Sunday.
"There's no days off," said Carter, a linebacker who was beaten for two touchdowns and another big play as San Diego came back from 11 points down for a 30-21 win. "There's no easy games. We just go back to work."
The revamped Dallas defence under new co-ordinator Monte Kiffin has been one of the stories of the season for the Cowboys, with turnovers, sacks and other big plays. Linebacker Sean Lee had one against the Chargers, taking an interception back 52 yards for a 21-10 lead in the second quarter.
But those were the last points for Dallas. And Lee was beaten by Antonio Gates for a touchdown and a nine-point lead for San Diego on its third straight scoring drive of the second half.
So now there's this sobering reality: With Manning set for his first visit to the Cowboys' $1.2 billion stadium after throwing for 16 touchdowns in the first four games, Dallas has given up two 400-yard passing games, not to mention the 506 yards in total offence rolled up by the Chargers.
"Yeah, we made mistakes this time, but it's never going to happen again," said defensive end DeMarcus Ware, who was held without a sack while Rivers made quick throws out of a hurry-up offence. "People say never say never, but I feel like it's never going to happen again playing a game like that. That's just the way I feel about it."
Dallas lost with a 2-1 record for the third straight season. The Cowboys are sitting at .500 again not only with Manning coming to town, but with Robert Griffin III visiting the following week. The Cowboys won't soon forget how the first NFL game in Texas went for the Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor. He threw for 304 yards and sparked to the Redskins to a huge lead in a 38-31 win.
While Dallas has been strong against the run so far this year, the Cowboys are near the bottom in pass defence even before Manning shows up.
"You'd like to able to make those stops," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "We had some guys that were out of position on some of those, whether it be through just mental or whether it be through physical. But we were out of position, and that hurt us."
Tony Romo protected the ball well again and has just one interception through four games. The only turnover for Dallas came when rookie receiver Terrance Williams tried to reach the ball over the goal line and had it knocked out by Crezdon Butler with the Cowboys trying to rally late in the fourth quarter.
Williams had his best game as a pro with seven catches for 71 yards, and Dez Bryant scored both offensive touchdowns.
"More than anything, they kept us off the field," said Romo, who has completed at least 70 per cent of his passes in all four games. "Without as many possessions as you'd normally get in a game, you have to make them all count."
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