By Dwain Price
The bad news is that the Dallas Cowboys made an enormous amount of egregious mistakes that led to Sunday’s 38-31 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
But the good news is that despite that heartbreaking loss, the Cowboys are still tied for first place in the NFC East with Washington with a 1-2 record.
The Cowboys turned the ball over three times, missed two extra point kicks, allowed a safety and misfired on a two-point conversion in a lost afternoon on the road in the Pacific Northwest. And that’s not counting the legion of penalties – 10 of them for 59 yards — and the number of plays where Seahawk receivers were so wide open that it was as if they were playing in a different area code than the Cowboys.
The sloppy play all added up to a dog day afternoon for the Cowboys, who will host the Cleveland Browns on Sunday at noon at AT&T Stadium in Arlington in the first of three straight home games.
“Obviously a lot went on during the course of the game,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said. “I thought our guys battled as they always do. I think when you look at the numbers – and I’m seeing it – we had a lot of production.
“But the key plays of the game, you’ve got to give those (Seattle) guys credit. Their big plays resulted in more points than ours.”
Just like they did last week against the Atlanta Falcons, the Cowboys dug themselves a very huge and extremely uncomfortable hole. But unlike against the Falcons when the Cowboys rallied to prevail, 40-39, after falling behind by 20 points, this time Dallas’ comeback bid fell short.
Behind the brilliance of quarterback Dak Prescott, the Cowboys erased a 30-15 deficit and went ahead of the Seahawks, 31-30, with 3:59 remaining in the game following a 42-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein. However, Russell Wilson tossed a 29-yard touchdown to DK Metcalf with 1:47 left, and Prescott was intercepted in the end zone with just six seconds to go, sealing a wild game where the Cowboys racked up 522 total yards.
“I want the ball in my hands,” said Prescott, who completed 37 of 57 passes for 472 yards, three touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. “I’m never going to shy away from the moment — having the ball in my hands and having a chance to win the game.
“I want to make those throws and I want to have that opportunity.”
It’s the sixth time in his career – a Cowboys’ franchise record — that Prescott has passed for 400-plus yards in a game. It’s also the second straight week that he’s passed for at least 450 yards.
Still, the Cowboys don’t have much to show for the video game-type numbers Prescott are manufacturing. And they can probably look in the mirror and see the reasons why.
“If you look at it, the last three weeks we’re only stopping ourselves,” Prescott said. “So, we’ve got to get out of our own way, be cleaner with the ball, play smarter football and find a way to start faster.
“We’re going to go back and we’re going to figure a way to get this thing right and clean it up.”
That clean up includes trying to avoid the mitigating circumstances in the early stages that tilted the game in the Seahawks’ favor.
During a consecutive three-play span, Seattle’s Tyler Lockett was very wide open behind the Cowboys’ secondary for a 43-yard TD. Then, Tony Pollard muffed the ensuing kickoff, and had to hustle to recover it at the one-yard line. And on the very next play, running back Ezekiel Elliott slipped and fell in the end zone for a safety and a 9-3 lead for the Seahawks.
“Those three plays there make it hard to say it was a good day,” McCarthy said. “It’s obviously a nine-point swing right there, so we’ve got to do a better job.
“I think like anything in the game of football you need a return on an investment in which you emphasize. We spend a tremendous amount of time on handling the football and we need to do a much better job in that area.”
Of the Seattle receivers who were wide open seemingly all day, McCarthy said: “People are not supposed to run wide open. That’s what Monday’s are for, and we’ll take a hard look at it.”
Things were so difficult for the Cowboys’ secondary that one Seattle second-half touchdown drive was aided by three penalties against the Dallas secondary.
“It was really on us, honestly, just miscommunication,” rookie cornerback Trevon Diggs said. “Most of the plays we gave them was because of us, so we’ve got to fix that. We fix that, the score may be different.”
The score also may have been different if the Cowboys could have found a way to contain Wilson, who was 27-of-40 for 315 yards and five touchdowns as he’s become the leader in the race to win the NFL Most Valuable Player award this year. Defensive end Aldon Smith did sack Wilson three times, but that wasn’t nearly enough.
“I think we need to do a better job of starting games, and that’s just something that comes with time, experience and us knowing each other and growing together,” Smith said. “At the end of the day we’ve all got a job to do and we’re just going to do our job better.”
For the Cowboys, Michael Gallup caught six passes for 138 yards and a touchdown, Cedrick Wilson had five receptions for 107 yards and two touchdowns, and Amari Cooper added nine catches for 86 yards. But all of those impressive statistics went for naught as the Cowboys are now 2-8 over the past two seasons in one-possession games.
“We just got to be better, starting with myself, making more of these games – one-score games,” Prescott said. “I know we will.
“We’ll just go back this week and have some tough practices and we’ll change this thing around. We’ll get this thing right and be proud of what we can do.”