The Cowboys’ bandwagon will be a lonely place this week.
Dallas entered its road game at Seattle on Sunday with the momentum of a solid Sunday Night Football victory over the Giants. But that positive energy fell flat as the Seahawks controlled most of the final three quarters and defeated the Cowboys, 24-13, at CenturyLink Field.
Dallas was beset by negative plays, including 7 penalties for 55 yards and 5 sacks of quarterback Dak Prescott.
The Seahawks (1-2) forced three Cowboys turnovers and gave up none on the way to their first victory of the season.
But the biggest miscues, and the least forgivable, were committed by running back Ezekiel Elliott.
The star Dallas (1-2) is counting on to fuel the offense instead made a pair of huge mistakes that killed the Cowboys’ momentum.
Trailing 7-0 in the second quarter, Elliott caught what appeared to be a 31-yard touchdown pass from Prescott. But Elliott lacked field awareness on the play and stepped out of bounds before he came back inbounds and caught the pass. That negated the touchdown and forced Dallas to settle for a Brett Maher 50-yard field goal.
It appeared to be a lapse in focus by Elliott as he wasn’t forced out of bounds. Simply put, it was the kind of mistake that makes an even bigger impact than the four points it tangibly cost the Cowboys.
Elliott compounded the mistake with a fourth-quarter fumble. The way the fourth quarter unfolded, the turnover cost Dallas two precious minutes in a game they almost made interesting anyway.
Dallas coach Jason Garrett has praised Elliott’s work ethic and overall ability, but a performance like Zeke put up in Seattle discredits that opinion.
Elliott rushed for a season-high 127 yards. And, to his credit, he kept running hard and making plays after his fourth-quarter fumble. But he didn’t get in the end zone and his good plays didn’t outweigh his bad ones.
The Cowboys problems on Sunday couldn’t be isolated to the offensive side of the football.
The Dallas defense surrendered big plays, most notably Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson’s 52-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Lockett in the second quarter. But the Cowboys also got pushed around on a key Seahawks drive in the middle of the second half.
Seattle began a drive at its own 28 with 3:38 to go in the fourth quarter and, 10 plays later, finished it with a touchdown to go ahead 24-6 two minutes into the fourth quarter. The Cowboys failed to recover a fumble on the first play of the drive and then failed to even force the Seahawks into a third down on the march. That’s a pretty good illustration of how much Seattle pushed Dallas around in the key moments of the second half.
There will be plenty for the media to scrutinize this week and anything less from Garrett than disgust in his team’s performance will likely fall on deaf ears.