ARLINGTON, Texas – Somewhere within the story of any great comeback, you'll find the details of how it got to that point.
Obviously, before the Cowboys could rally from a 20-0 deficit and score 16 unanswered, fourth quarter points, a bunch of things had to go horribly wrong.
Amari Cooper summarized the first quarter of Sunday's 40-39 win against Atlants perfectly.
"It was terrible," Cooper said. "It wasn't great, at all. And that's what I mean – that's not winning football."
It'd be hard to quantify such a thing, but it feels plausible to say the Dallas Cowboys played the worst first quarter in their history on Sunday. If this wasn't the worst, it was awfully close.
In 15 minutes of mind boggling bad play, the Cowboys fumbled four times and failed to convert a fake punt. They lost three of those fumbles, as Dak let the ball slip from his hands while trying to avoid a sack, and Ezekiel Elliott lost control of a carry on two separate occasions.
"We want to make plays, but at the end of the day we have to take care of the ball," Prescott said. "I'll start with myself. I was sacked, and you just have to take that sack. It's better than a turnover and giving them that field position and you can punt the ball away."
Without trying to let anyone off the hook, it was remarkable the positions the Cowboys put their defense in to start the game. Prescott's fumble was recovered at the Dallas 22-yard line. Elliott lost his fumbles at the Atlanta 45-yard line and the Dallas 40-yard line.
Throw in the failed fake punt, which gave the Falcons the ball at the Dallas 29-yard line, and it's no wonder Atlanta raced out to a 20-0 lead. To be blunt, it's miraculous the first quarter deficit wasn't even worse.
"It almost felt unreal with the start that we got off to," Elliott said. "We came out flat, turned the ball over three times – weren't really focused. Honestly I don't know."
Perhaps it was the noon kickoff, perhaps it was a stadium with only 20% capacity. The Cowboys didn't have a great answer for the lack of early energy. But after a third turnover in the first 15 minutes, Elliott said the offense had a tough conversation among themselves.
"I think after that third turnover, we got together and were like 'Man, look. They're not stopping us, we're only stopping ourselves. We're giving them the ball. If we take care of the ball, we've got a shot to go win this thing,'" Elliott said.
Clearly, a lot more went into it than that. The Cowboys scored their first points with 12:09 to play in the second quarter, and they didn't take the lead until time expired. But when recapping how the Cowboys pulled off one of the most improbable comebacks in franchise history, it's important to remember the even more improbable starting point.
"We've got the right guys in this locker room to do it, and we went out there and got it done," Elliott said.
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