By SCHUYLER DIXON
AP Sports Writer
IRVING, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys followed a big win over the New York Giants in the opener with a worrisome loss on the road — just like last year.
Tony Romo had a big turnover, the defense didn’t get a takeaway and couldn’t make a critical stop in the final minutes — just like last year.
Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher is certain this isn’t just like 2012.
“I’m not worried about last year’s woes or whatever: 1-1 and then you go downhill,” Hatcher said after Sunday’s 17-16 loss at Kansas City. “That will not happen. We’re going to be a contender when this is all said and done.”
Hatcher did his part to make sure this showing was better than last year’s loss in Seattle, getting six tackles, a sack, another tackle for loss and a batted pass. But Hatcher was also in the middle of a defense that couldn’t stop the Chiefs in time to give Romo one more realistic shot at a winning drive.
Jamaal Charles had 8 yards on eight carries when Kansas City took over with 3:50 remaining. He needed just two tries to surpass that — and get the first of three first downs that left the Cowboys just 16 seconds from their 4-yard line. Charles had 47 yards on the final Kansas City possession.
A week after getting six takeaways against the Giants, the Cowboys didn’t have any. They were plus-5 in turnover margin in the opener, and minus-2 this time.
“We’ve got to outplay their defense,” Hatcher said. “They got two turnovers, we’ve got to get four. Up front we made some clutch plays, but when it counted we didn’t show up.”
There were several troubling developments for Romo’s offense heading into Sunday’s home matchup with St. Louis. Dallas struggled getting touchdowns from inside the 20 — another issue a year ago. Romo’s accuracy, and even his velocity, appeared off at critical moments a week after the Giants roughed up his ribs.
But the biggest problem was the running game. It was decent against the Giants, then disappeared against the Chiefs. DeMarco Murray bounced away from the line where the hole was supposed to be on his first play and lost 2 yards. He finished with 25 yards on 12 carries, with a long of just 6. Lance Dunbar had 12 yards on his only carry, then fumbled at the end of a pass play and didn’t get another chance.
The Cowboys had one of the worst rushing attacks in team history last year. This year’s pace doesn’t even match that.
“You’ve got to run the ball better, you’ve got to score when you’re down there. You’ve got to stop people. Every team’s doing the same thing after this week that lost, and we’re going to be included in that,” said Romo, who had 298 yards passing and a touchdown to Dez Bryant. Romo also had a critical fumble when he was slow on a release with pressure coming from the backside.
Bryant bounced back from getting shut down by the Giants to have the first 100-yard first quarter for Dallas since Michael Irvin did it 20 years ago. But he had just 41 yards the rest of the way, and a key drop that would have shifted field position when the Cowboys were consistently losing that battle in the second half.
“A lot of us are down right now because of the time and effort all the way through the summer, and we all know that how we played today is not acceptable,” Bryant said. “I know we’re going to go back in and do what we need to do and clean up these mistakes and get it right.”
After the Rams, the Cowboys head back on the road to San Diego, which, like Kansas City, is looking better than it did a year ago. In other words, Jason Garrett’s team has a challenge to break the .500 rut coming off consecutive 8-8 seasons in his first two full years as coach.
“You can’t think here you go again,” tight end Jason Witten said. “We worked hard and lost a game on the road. Lots of football left. We’ve got to get it turned around.”