In the 25 days (and counting) since that victory, the Cowboys’ offense has steadily declined, prone to show the occasional outburst but far from the well-oiled machine we saw in early September.
Their three-game losing streak — part of it, anyway — can be attributed to spotty coaching and offensive coordinating, responsibilities that fall on Jason Garrett and Kellen Moore, exclusively. You may have noticed a distinct lack of play-action nor the creative elements that separated Moore from his predecessor, Scott Linehan.
You’re not alone.
“I think it’s important for me to go evaluate that very specifically,” Garrett told reporters Thursday. “I don’t want to make any overarching comment on that. You can certainly make the argument that the game situation has impacted that.”
Yes, injuries have devastated the wide receiver corps and offensive line. Yes, Prescott has been sloppy at times, slow-starting on other occasions. But coaches coach and players play, and neither side is pulling their weight.
So they’re both complicit.
“A lot of times it’s for the coaches to see, sure I can get back there and say ‘this isn’t working,’ or I can just have that feel, but it is because of protection is it because we aren’t running the right routes?” Prescott said Thursday.
“You have to make a rationale decision to just give it to Zeke or let’s just do this,” he added. “So, that’s on the coaches. But there’s a part of you that you know your guys, you’re going to get it to them when the opportunity presents itself, but you have to stay within it.”
In the weeks that followed the Dolphins victory, Dallas’ offense has produced 10, 24 and 22 points. Prescott has a 2:4 TD:INT ratio. They have trailed a combined 47-9 at halftime, per ESPN’s Todd Archer, and scored just 20 first-quarter points.
None of this is by design, but it isn’t accidental or coincidental, either. It’s evident to everyone in and around the Cowboys’ orbit.
“It’s been very frustrating,” Prescott said, per ESPN. “When our backs are against the wall and we’ve got to get going, we’ve got to score points, just somehow we do. We’ve got to figure that out and play with that same mentality, that same urgency from the first play of the game.”
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Cowboys a ‘Great Team’
So says the the man under center subjected to a brutal barrage of hits last week: Prescott, who explained his rationale in detail during his media availability on Thursday.
“I have a weird way of looking at things,” Prescott said, via Pro Football Talk. “I’d rather it right now than any time ever. Simply on the fact that we started 3-0, felt good about ourselves, know the team we have and then basically lose three to three different types of teams, really by getting in your own way. I’ll take that. We’re going to learn from it. We’ll get better because of it. But I’d rather it happen now when we still have a chance to go into Game Seven playing for first place in the division rather than later in the year when we only have a game or two left before the playoffs or be forced to try to make the playoffs. It’s never good to lose three, never, ever, but if there ever was an ideal time, I’d say it’s now. We’re definitely going to get better because of these last three games.”
The Cowboys better hope they get better — fast — because the rival Philadelphia Eagles are coming to town for a pivotal NFC East showdown on Sunday Night Football. Win, and take sole possession of first place. Lose, and drop below .500 in explicable fashion, putting their Super Bowl aspirations on life support.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL