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Cowboys come undone, suffer blowout loss to Cardinals in first game without Dak Prescott

3 min read
https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/cowboys/2020/10/19/dallas-cowboys-arizona-cardinals-score-ezekiel-elliott-andy-dalton/5987240002/

ARLINGTON, Texas — Six weeks into the 2020 NFL season, the Dallas Cowboys remain atop the NFC East.

That’s the only good news for the Cowboys after a 38-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night.

The Cowboys fell to 2-4 in Mike McCarthy’s debut season and 0-1 playing without quarterback Dak Prescott for the first time in five seasons. Kyler Murray, meanwhile, improved to 7-0 as a starter at AT&T Stadium as he added a professional victory to a series of college and high school wins at Jerry World.

Here are three things we learned in the Cardinals’ thrashing:

1. This team missed Dak

Quarterback play wasn’t Dallas’ only egregious issue. But Andy Dalton was clearly not Prescott, who averaged 371.2 passing yards per game and a 99.6 rating before suffering a season-ending compound fracture and dislocation of his ankle. Dalton completed 34 of 54 passes for 266 yards, but he failed to sustain drives, often wasn’t on the same page as his receivers and threw two costly interceptions, including one fourth-quarter pick by Cardinals safety Budda Baker. The Cowboys needed more than 57 minutes to score a touchdown, a 1-yard pass from Dalton to Amari Cooper after the quarterback had thrown back-shoulder fades to Cooper and Michael Gallup each on the series. Gallup also dropped an end zone pass from Dalton in the second quarter.

The anemic performance came after Dallas scored more than 31 points each of the previous four weeks. It didn’t help Dalton’s case that he was sacked three times and hit eight on a night when four-time All-Pro right guard Zack Martin exited with a concussion, leaving Dalton with four offensive linemen who had combined for one start before the 2020 season. Dallas’ offensive line has regressed from its best position for much of the last decade to among its worst.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Andy Dalton (14) gets up off the field after being sacked in the first half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020.

2. No turning the page on turnovers

Dalton’s interceptions were part of the problem, the Cardinals converting them into a combined 10 points. But even more concerning were fumbles by Elliott on consecutive second-quarter snaps. Sure, Elliott—like most of his teammates—was playing for the first time without Prescott, who had started 69 straight games since Dallas selected him in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. But Elliott has far too much professional experience, and understanding of this offense, to punish the offense as much as he has with five lost fumbles (six total) in 2020—after losing two fumbles all of 2019.

The Cardinals scored touchdowns off each, turning a scoreless game into a 14-0 advantage the Cowboys would never come close to erasing. Instead, Arizona had outscored Dallas 31-3 before the last three minutes of the game, Cowboys defenders reclaiming their hallowed grounds as the leakiest defense in the NFL.

3. You get a touchdown, and you get a touchdown …

The Cowboys defense has allowed a league-worst 36.3 points per game. The Cowboys offense hasn’t helped, as 84 of 218 points came off turnovers. But it wasn’t the offense that gave up an 80-yard touchdown pass to Christian Kirk or a 68-yard rushing touchdown to Kenyan Drake. Dallas allowed far too many big plays to Murray and his weapons. Murray finished the game with 262 total yards from scrimmage, split between 188 yards and two touchdowns in the passing game and 74 yards and two scores on the ground.

The Cowboys travel to division rivals Washington and Philadelphia in the next two weeks.

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