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What on earth? Cowboys play worst half of the year, trail 16-0 to Broncos

We haven't seen Dallas look this bad since the calendar read 2020.
Credit: AP
Denver Broncos' Kareem Jackson (22) and Shelby Harris (96) defend against Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) as he caries the ball in the first half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys just authored their worst half of football in 2021, and it's really not even close.

Quarterback Dak Prescott completed just 5 of 14 passes for 75 yards, and a 54.2 passer rating. Cornerback Trevon Diggs took too poorly timed penalties, one of which leading to a touchdown, and also gave up a 44-yard touchdown to Tim Patrick in one-on-one coverage. The Cowboys were outgained 227-109, and gave up 14 Broncos first downs, to Dallas' 5. And the Broncos held the ball for 19:31 of the opening 30 minutes of play.

That was ugly.

Very clearly, the Cowboys felt like they could just roll the ball out there and play, and cruise past a Broncos team that was a double-digit underdog in today's game. "Hey, we're the Super Bowl contender. They're the .500 team that has lost four of their last five games. We got this."

Nope.

And now they're in a 16-0 hole, because of it.

The Cowboys are clearly missing left tackle Tyron Smith, as his replacement Terence Steele has struggled in the opening half, giving up a key sack that effectively ended a second-quarter possession.

And Diggs, who has been one of the Cowboys' very best players through this six-game win streak, had his worst half of the year. Possibly his worst half as a Cowboy. A pass interference call at the goal line on the Broncos first touchdown drive was blatant. He came through the receivers back very early, and drew an easy call from the officials. Two plays later, the Broncos had a 6-0 lead.

Then, Diggs was in single coverage with Broncos wideout Tim Patrick, who beat Diggs up the sideline, separated at the last moment, and caught a 44-yard touchdown over the second-year corner, to put the Broncos up 13-0.

And if that wasn't enough, Diggs was called for another obvious penalty, holding Patrick on a play where Jourdan Lewis made a sensational diving interception late in the second quarter. The penalty negated the pick.

A sack by Micah Parsons on a key third down for Denver in the second quarter forced a field goal, and that kept this a two-score game, after the field goal made it 16-0. But the Cowboys have a substantial uphill climb in front of them.