By Dwain Price
ARLINGTON — Those haters who were patiently waiting for the Dallas Cowboys to lay an egg this season finally got their wish this past Sunday.
In an odd game that saw the Cowboys scrambling just to avoid being shutout for the first time ever in the 100 games they’ve played at their swanky AT&T Stadium, the Denver Broncos laid an unexpected 30-16 whipping on Jerry Jones’ team. And it wasn’t even that close.
The loss snapped the Cowboys’ six-game winning streak and drooped them to 6-2 on the season. It also left them trying to look at the sunny side of a game where they got slapped around in every phase.
In essence, the Cowboys looked shell-shocked in a game that was one of the worst ever played by quarterback Dak Prescott.
“We got thumped in every aspect of the game,” said Prescott, who only completed 19 passes in 39 attempts for 232 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. “We scored a couple of touchdowns there in late time, but never got going.
“I missed some throws. We didn’t throw and catch the ball as we normally do. It wasn’t our best performance by any means — obviously our worst of the year.”
The Cowboys entered the game ranked number one in the NFL in yards per game and number three in scoring. They also had averaged 40 points in games played on their home turf.
But the Broncos blew out to a 30-0 lead with 6:32 remaining in the game, and the Cowboys scored a pair of face-saving touchdowns in the game’s final 4:08 on passes from Prescott to Malik Turner. A Cowboys’ offense that was averaging 455 yards a game finished with just 290 yards and never got any serious traction under their feet.
It was as if the Cowboys were reading all their glorious press clippings about how great they are and about how they’re possibly Super Bowl-bound after they went to Minnesota the previous week and defeated the Vikings, 20-16, with backup quarterback Cooper Rush while Prescott was sidelined with a calf injury.
“Frankly, we were out-coached, we were out-played all the way through,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “This is the first time I’ve felt clearly our energy didn’t exceed our opponent, and that’s disappointing.
“If you look at the way their defense played us from the start, they challenged our receivers, they challenged the box, they clearly were going to take away the run and put it on the passing game, and we didn’t respond to that.”
Things was so bad for the Cowboys that they kept Prescott in the game in garbage time. That’s because they wanted to see him establish some type of rhythm heading into Sunday’s 12 p.m. home game against the Atlanta Falcons.
“Frankly, the fourth quarter was a conscious effort to keep him in there for the two-minute work,” McCarthy said. “It’s something that if I was looking at all the situation work that we’ve done and the commitment that you put to each situation, we needed that work.
“So, I was happy to see us have some two-minute production, just because I think that‘s something we can definitely carry forward out of this game.”
Dropped passes were plentiful for the Cowboy receivers, and the Broncos gouged Dallas’ defense for 407 yards, including 190 yards rushing.
“I mean, as a team we were off, not just me and (Prescott),” said wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, who caught two passes for 23 yards. “Honestly, I felt like we couldn’t get a completion — all the receivers.
“It was a weird day. Yeah, it was just weird.”
So weird that the Cowboys only had the ball for 18:48 to 41:12 for the Broncos. And it was a Broncos’ team that was expected to be reeling after they surprisingly traded DeSoto linebacker Von Miller to the Los Angeles Rams earlier last week.
But the Broncos didn’t miss a beat without Miller, who was the Most Valuable Player in Super Bowl 50, is an eight-time Pro Bowl player and has more quarterback sacks (110.5) than any NFL player since 2011.
As to whether or not the Broncos have discovered the blueprint to beat the Cowboys, cornerback Trevon Diggs said: “There is no blueprint.”
The Cowboys sure hope not.
Denver held the Cowboys to just 109 yards in the first half and only 13 yards in the third quarter.
“It’s the NFL,” Prescott said. “Those guys get paid to do this and play at a high level, and they came in here and were more prepared for this game.
“They did a great job — did better than we did. I wasn’t as clean as I normally am, or as I have been. I’m not going to sit here and blame two weeks (off) when I had a great week of practice under my belt coming into this one.”
The Cowboys missed on three crucial fourth down plays and just seemed to be sleep-walking through the entire game. But they know they must wake up in time to play an Atlanta team that’s coming off a huge 27-25 upset victory over the New Orleans Saints.
“I think everybody just has to be accountable for what just happened,” Prescott said. “You win as a team and you lose as a team. I think it starts with the leaders. We’re not looking and asking the coaches to do something different. We’ve got to be more physical, we’ve got to take accountability in this loss.
“When you do lose and have the negatives, you’ve got to take positives from it. We’ll make sure that we take a lot from this. And as I said, for one, the feeling in the locker room; a lot of guys were hurt, a lot of guys were upset. We got beat and that’s not something we’ve become used to at this point. We’re a focused team, we’re a brotherhood, nobody liked it and we’ll learn from it in every aspect to make sure that we grow, that we become better, we’re accountable for it and we move forward.”