DALLAS — The Dallas Cowboys lost another close game in which they didn’t play particularly well. That’s been a recurring theme for the team thus far on the season, with two losses in the final minutes and the lone victory coming on a field goal as time expired following an unlikely onside kick recovery.
Overall, Dallas hasn’t performed consistently enough for 60 minutes to win games. While they could conceivably be 3-0 this season with a few more fortuitous bounces, they’re even luckier that they haven’t started their 2020 campaign 0-3.
Issues that plague the Cowboys aren’t always the same either. One week they survived because of special teams, the next week the same unit cost the Cowboys valuable points. Dallas will need more data to fully dissect their deficiencies but with a Week 4 matchup against Cleveland set for Sunday, there is ample time to work on improving.
Here’s what we learned about Dallas in Week 3:
Dak Prescott is carrying the offense
The Cowboys have gotten the air attack going as Prescott threw for over 450 yards for the second consecutive week. The deep and intermediate passing game was a thing of beauty to watch against the Seahawks as WRs Cedrick Wilson and Michael Gallup both went for over 100 yards. Gallup averaged 23 yards per catch as Prescott was extremely accurate on the downfield throws as he accumulated three TDs of 40 or more yards.
However, the team isn’t going to win many games with Prescott throwing it 57 times as he did in Seattle. One of the main issues from last season is already cropping up in 2020. Dallas keeps playing from behind. The Cowboys need to be more consistent early in games and not spend their Sundays playing catchup all game long.
With an early lead, the Cowboys can let Prescott pick his spots while Ezekiel Elliott can be featured more. Dallas shouldn’t abandon the passing game, and shootouts will likely be a staple for this team in 2020, but with a lead, the offense would have more options.
Luckily, Prescott is playing at a high level and keeping the team in games that they maybe wouldn’t be in otherwise. They just shouldn’t need to lean on him to orchestrate a comeback bid all the time, especially with the other weapons they have on offense.
Aldon Smith is a football player
The Cowboys struggled with getting to the quarterback once again, but Smith hasn't been a part of that plight. Smith had three sacks in the game against the Seahawks and now leads the NFL with four sacks through the first three weeks of the season.
If Smith doesn’t keep a steady flow of pressure on Seattle QB Russell Wilson throughout the Week 3 contest, the Cowboys probably don’t have a shot to win the game at all. It’s amazing that a guy who hadn’t played football since 2015 continues to perform as the best player on defense so far this year. Some guys are just football players and Smith is one of them.
Turnovers crushed their chances
Turnovers are one of the biggest factors for whether or not a team wins a game. The Cowboys turned it over three times against the Seahawks, four if you include the safety that gave Seattle a short field. The Seahawks cashed in with 14 points off the turnovers (16 with the safety included). Considering that Dallas lost by one score, you can see the difference the turnovers made.
You aren’t going to win many games when you turn the ball over three times and don’t force one yourselves.
If the Cowboys want to win more games, they need to force more turnovers. Through three games, Dallas has taken the ball away twice. Only two teams have fewer takeaways. Giving their offense short fields and more opportunities to score points should be a major focal point for Dallas in the coming weeks.
Special teams flops
The Cowboys brought in John ‘Bones’ Fassel to turn around a putrid unit that was among the worst in the league in 2019. That didn’t bear fruit against the Seahawks as the group is still a work in progress.
Kick return man Tony Pollard has to make better decisions on kickoffs and kicker Greg Zuerlein can’t be missing extra points. Chasing points in the NFL, where games are won and lost by razor thin margins, isn’t an optimal way to go about your business.
Make no bones about it, if the Cowboys are going to be a more consistent team, they need to be much better on special teams than they were against the Seahawks.
Do you think the Cowboys will be able to overcome their early-season woes? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.