ARLINGTON, Texas — Cowboys safety Byron Jones bolted from the sideline and shoved Titans defenders Jurrell Casey and Wesley Woodyard off the navy and white star painted at midfield of AT&T Stadium.
But let’s back up.
Twelve and a half minutes had elapsed in the first quarter of Monday Night Football when Tennessee safety Kevin Byard dove in the Cowboys endzone, intercepting Dak Prescott’s pass intended for Amari Cooper.
Byard raced the stolen ball to the 50-yard line, teammates joining him to dance atop the Cowboys star logo at midfield. The taunt mirrored wide receiver Terrell Owens, who’d mocked Cowboys Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith with the same jibe 18 years ago.
Jones, standing on Dallas’ sideline, wasn’t having it.
More: Jerry Jones says there are no plans to fire Jason Garrett after Dallas Cowboys’ fifth loss
More: Titans’ Kevin Byard taunts Cowboys by channeling Terrell Owens, celebrating on star
“Just defend the star,” Jones said after Dallas’ 28-14 loss to the Titans dropped its record to 3-5. “There’s no reason for them to disrespect the star like that.
“You can have fun. I understand the celebrating. But you overstep the boundaries when you go on the star.”
For his performance Monday night, arguably the momentum changer in the Cowboys’ first home loss this year, Byard earned a nod from Owens, three months after his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction.
“I feel like I’ve seen this before,” Owens tweeted after Byard’s imitation. “I gave ‘em the drip, they sucked it up, I got ‘em on it.”
Owens later added “#NoBiggerFanThanMe.”
Not bad cashing in for Byard, who planned the celebration at the Titans’ team hotel and expected “somebody to knock my head off.” (They didn’t.)
“What can I do if I make a play and really just show the team that we’re not scared?” Byard said he thought. “We’re here to play ball. We’re here to win the game.”
The Cowboys weren’t.
Prescott surrendered a second turnover in the third quarter, this time a fumble to Jayon Brown and Woodyard.
Dallas’ defense sputtered as the Titans converted on 11-of-14 third downs and 4-of-5 trips to the red zone..
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said his team, coming off 15 days rest, looked tired. Defenders acknowledged the slip.
“The frustration’s high,” said Cowboys defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford, who notched one of Dallas’ four sacks. “I mean, it’s shocking. It was shocking to see … the amount of points.”
The Cowboys must consider what 28 more points surrendered and a fifth loss mean.
“We just got to look at it as what team do we want to be,” Byron Jones said. “Do we want to show up as the team in the first quarter or first half, or do we want to be the impostors that showed up in the second half?
“Like coach says: We have the right type of guys in this locker room, high-character guys. Lesser men would back away or shy away and point fingers and break the team apart. But we don’t got those type of guys here.”
Lesser men may also allow opponents to dancegleefully as Titans defenders did after Byard’s interception until Jones took a stance.
“It’s no need for it,” he said. “When you come into the Cowboys arena, people don’t do that. It’s just about respecting the brand, respecting the star.”
Jones made that statement that when he raced from the sideline and shoved Byard’s crew of dancers.
But in the eight remaining games this season, can the Cowboys make that statement on the field?
Follow Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.