ARLINGTON, Texas – Since 2016, the Cowboys have played 12 games decided by a touchdown or less, including two of their first four contests this season.
With such a thin margin for error, field position made a critical difference in Sunday's 35-30 loss to the L.A. Rams at AT&T Stadium.
The Rams scored 13 points off three Cowboys miscues (a muffed punt by rookie Ryan Switzer, a 66-yard kickoff return allowed, and an interception by quarterback Dak Prescott) that gave them the ball inside the Dallas 40-yard line on three of their 11 true possessions.
Midway through the second quarter, with the Cowboys up 17-6, Switzer took his eye off the ball for a split second – "a fundamental play that I didn't make," he said – after he noticed a Rams gunner run past him in coverage to his left.
The Rams took over at the Dallas 18 and scored the first of only two touchdowns on offense.
"I had a good read on the ball, judged it well," Switzer said. "It's just one of those instances where as soon as I had it I took my eyes off it to kind of assess where I was on the field. I didn't end up possessing it cleanly.
"Obviously it's a big play in the game, but I thought we bounced back well. We had some good kickoff returns. Just got to avoid the mistakes."
Two of Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein's seven field goals Sunday were the result of excellent field position, too.
After the Cowboys took a 10-3 lead at the start of the second quarter, they allowed L.A.'s Pharoh Cooper to return the ensuing kickoff 66 yards to set up first-and-10 at the Dallas 35. The Cowboys' coverage units had not allowed a kickoff return over 30 yards in the first three games.
And, Prescott's third interception of the season – scrambling to his right, looking for slot receiver Cole Beasley in the middle of the field – handed the Rams the ball back at the Dallas 29, leading 29-24, with 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
"I think I missed some throws in the second half that I didn't miss in the first half or that I can't miss, simply," Prescott said.