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The Vent: Big deficit once again warps Cowboys in 38-10 loss to Cardinals

The Dallas Cowboys continue to hit the same beats note for note as poor play forced them on a doomed comeback trail against the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night.
Credit: AP
Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) and linebacker Jordan Hicks, rear, combine to tackle Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, right front, after a short gain in the second half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Another week, another terrible performance from the Dallas Cowboys, who fell to the Arizona Cardinals 38-10 on Monday Night Football. The team now sits at a staggering 2-4 after getting blown out for a second loss in this stretch of three consecutive home games where they have allowed an inconceivable combined total of 121 points (40.3 per game). 

Were it not for a furious rally in Week 5 against the lowly Giants, Dallas would have been swept in their longest homestand of the season.

We’re starting to run out of ways to explain how embarrassing the Cowboys have been in 2020. There just aren’t enough adjectives to describe how poor their play has been. And it’s the same mind-numbing mistakes that continue to doom the team week after week.

And while the defense was eventually up to the task of continuing their same terrible trends, the offense with Andy Dalton under center was a big step down from starter Dak Prescott. As it turns out, no, Prescott wasn’t just compiling stats in garbage time this season. It’s safe to say that this myth has been debunked for now. Prescott at least gives the Cowboys a chance when they fall behind, that didn’t happen with Dalton.

Don’t be fooled though, this isn’t just about Dalton. Dallas turned the ball over four more times, as they remain as the league leaders in that dubious category. The turnover differential now stands at a whopping -12. All four Cowboys turnovers led to Cardinals points, but, as has been the case every week, the biggest ones came in the first half when the game was still in question.

The Cowboys were actually getting a good defensive effort before RB Ezekiel Elliott fumbled a short Dalton pass as he escaped a sack late in the first quarter. It’s something that maybe the Cowboys could have weathered if Elliott didn’t also then fumble again on the very next possession for his fifth lost fumble in six games. 

Both mistakes cost the Cowboys as Arizona cashed in with two touchdown drives and it turned a scoreless game into a 14-0 contest in the blink of an eye. Those were the key plays that swung the momentum to the Cardinals, something they never relinquished.

With starting QB and leader Prescott out for the season, the offense needed Elliott to be the elite player he’s paid to be. On Monday night, he was a big reason the Cowboys lost. Instead of making a positive contribution, Elliott helped give the game away.

Elliott was hardly the only issue, either, however. The offensive line took another massive hit when All-Pro guard Zack Martin was lost to an injury and the unit never allowed Dalton to feel comfortable. The veteran signal-caller was sacked three times and pressured all night.

Dalton, who threw two interceptions, struggled to push the ball downfield and settled for short throws despite a wealth of quality receivers to pick from. His performance shined a spotlight for those who believed that Prescott wasn’t that good or that Dalton can do the same things in the offense that Prescott can do. Both were proven wrong against the Cardinals.

The Cowboys didn’t need Dalton to be Prescott. They just couldn’t afford to see him turn the ball over twice while the star running back was also coughing up the ball and the receivers weren’t being given a chance to make plays.

The sad thing about the offense putting the team in a hole is the much-maligned defense played well early on. The game was scoreless after the first quarter, after all. However, once Dallas fell behind, they got lit up like a Christmas tree. In the end, you just aren’t going to win too many games when you give up 38 points, 438 total yards or 261 yards rushing. Those are staggeringly bad numbers.

CBs Anthony Brown and Daryl Worley got beat on two Christian Kirk touchdowns and looked foolish in the process as Mike Nolan’s defense took a step back from perhaps their best performance of the season in Week 5.

The maddening thing is, the Cowboys make the same mistakes every game, and the coaching staff looks worse as each week passes. There were bad penalties, dropped balls, turnovers, and, especially this week, a lack of a sense of urgency. 

These are problems that we’ve seen the team make every week as the formula continues to see Dallas fall down big after a bunch of mistakes and then try to play catch up for the rest of the game as their defense gets gashed.

Considering the circumstances of a new staff, a global pandemic, and an ever-swelling injury list, it would be understandable if this were a one-off situation where a few mistakes cost them a game. However, we’re six weeks into the season and, considering this has happened every week, it’s time to face the reality that perhaps this is just what the Cowboys are. 

They’re a team that cannot get out of their own way. They’re a team that turns the ball over, isn’t disciplined, and never fixes their mistakes. 

The Cowboys look poorly coached in all facets of the game and each one reared its ugly head in Monday’s defeat. The players on the field didn’t appear interested in making the staff look any better, either. 

This is simply a bad football team. A Week 6 loss at home, where they trailed by at least 14 points for the fifth time this season, is proof of that. 

Do you think the Cowboys will be able to pull themselves out of this tailspin in the coming weeks? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.