ARLINGTON, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys came into Sunday's game as a bonafide Super Bowl contender, and hearing chatter about how they may be the best team in the NFL.
The chatter will stop. That much is for sure. It's up to Dallas whether this was a one-game clunker, and nothing more... or the start of a problem.
The Denver Broncos ran roughshod over the Cowboys defense on Sunday, hanging 30 points on a Dallas defense that hadn't given up that many points since the opener against the defending Super Bowl champion Bucs. And the Cowboys offense looked horrid, nearly being shutout by a Broncos defense that just traded away their defensive leader.
In front of a crowd of 93,503, the Cowboys saw a ton of orange in the stands, and heard multiple "Let's Go Broncos" chants through the afternoon.
It was ugly in every way imaginable.
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott completed just 19 of 39 passes, threw an interception, and looked rusty in his first start since the New England game, as he came back off the calf strain. Two late touchdown passes salvaged his stat line some. But it was all garbage time numbers.
Cornerback Trevon Diggs played his worst half of the season, giving up a 44-yard touchdown to Tim Patrick, and also taking two bad penalties. The first directly preceded Denver's first touchdown. The second wiped a Dallas interception off the board.
The Cowboys defense offered its worst display of tackling so far this season, often looking preoccupied with stripping the ball free of the ball carrier, rather than completing the tackle. Several times, that decision led to extra yardage for Denver.
The absence of left tackle Tyron Smith was felt, as his replacement Terence Steele struggled to protect Prescott's blind side, giving up a key sack in the first half that effectively ended a drive.
And the most bizarre punt block you'll see for quite some time, handed Dallas a terrible break, right when it looked like they might come to life. Malik Turner broke clean up the middle of the Broncos punt formation, and took the ball off Sam Martin's foot. The ball ricocheted forward, and bounced off Nahshon Wright's hands. But because Wright contacted the football beyond the line of scrimmage, it technically was considered a muffed punt. Denver grabbed the football, and when they did, it constituted a fresh possession for the Broncos, and a free first down.
It was 16-0 Denver at the time, and it appeared that the Cowboys were about to take the football back after a 3 & out and the block, deep in Broncos territory. For the first time all day, after they had slept their way through the first half, Dallas had life. The ruling took whatever life Dallas had left, and squashed it.
Denver drove down the field, tacked three points on the board via a field goal, and the Cowboys were listless the rest of the day.
Dallas falls to 6-2 on the year. They will face the Atlanta Falcons next week, at home.