CHICAGO — You can't blame Tony Romo this time.

Granted, the Dallas Cowboys' offense stalled several times after a hot start, but no, this one is on the defense. The Cowboys fell to 7-6 with a miserabl defensive performance, allowing the Chicago Bearsto ring up 490 yards of offense and score on their first eight possessions in a 45-28 rout at Soldier Field on Monday night. The ninth possession ended with the Bears taking a knee to run out the final seconds.

Bears quarterback Josh McCown threw for four touchdown passes, and ran for another — his first rushing TD since 2004 — in a strong effort against a Cowboys secondary that is short on talent and discipline, and one that has been pulverized by injury, too.

The Cowboys had no answer for the Bears' Alshon Jeffery on deep passes, Brandon Marshall on the intermediate stuff and Matt Forte in the run game or the short passing game. It was a complete dismantling of all three levels of the Cowboys' defense.

There were bad tackling angles, mindless penalties (two by George Selvie, for 15 yards apiece), injuries (Sean Lee left the game with a neck ailment), poor coverages, dropped interceptions (Orlando Scandrick had one in the end zone; the Bears scored two plays later) and general malaise on the freezing field Monday night. Even the extreme cold — it was below zero degrees with the wind chill, the second-coldest Cowboys game ever — was no excuse for the Cowboys' poor play.

What must Cowboys owner Jerry Jones think of this unit? He spent big money to keep high-priced pieces such as Brandon Carr and DeMarcus Ware in place, fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan (who is enjoying a terrific season in New Orleans) and hired Monte Kiffin, who, despite it not being all his fault, is having a miserable return to the NFL at age 73.

Expect major changes in the offseason for the Cowboys. They might still win the NFC East, crazy as it seems, but the Cowboys appear to be a team with little chance to make any noise — or stop any worthy offense — in the postseason.

The Bears, meanwhile, kept their playoff hopes alive with the big win after losing two straight. They, too, have a chance to win their division still, and McCown and Jeffery have been godsends.

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