ARLINGTON, Texas – Two weeks ago, when the Cowboys started the season 1-3 for the first time in 10 years, a frustrated Mike McCarthy described his biggest concern with his football team.
"We're a come-from-behind team as I stand in front of you. That's not the way you win consistently," the head coach said.
Two games later, same story:
The Cowboys dropped to 2-4 Monday night with a stunning 38-10 home loss to the Arizona Cardinals. The offense gave the ball away a season-high four times, including two Ezekiel Elliott fumbles in the first half. The defense didn't get a takeaway for the third time in six games.
The result was yet another "come-from-behind" situation in the second half, this time with Andy Dalton at quarterback, not injured starter Dak Prescott. Dalton had 266 passing yards on 54 pass attempts, with one touchdown and two interceptions. Arizona scored 24 points off the two picks and two Elliott fumbles.
The result is a league-worst minus-12 turnover margin.
The result is a coach and team looking for answers despite a half-game lead over the Philadelphia Eagles in a painful start for the NFC East.
"I think we all understand what the score is. We didn't play very well on offense, defense or special teams and most importantly, I didn't coach very well," McCarthy said. "I have a continuing issue with ball security on my football team, something a personally take a lot of pride in, in how it reflects how you play the game of football, and I'm not getting it done right now."
As Packers head coach from 2006-18, McCarthy's teams posted a collective plus-97 turnover margin. Only twice did they finish a season in the negative column.
What's the cause in Dallas? What's the solution?
"It's something that we work diligently on and it's not carrying over to the game. It's something we have to just continue to stay after," McCarthy said. "Maybe frankly we're trying too hard or we're overcoaching. It clearly has put us in a position we've been playing uphill every single game.
"We haven't gotten into a groove or a rhythm or gotten out in front yet this year and it's self-inflicted wounds that continue to plague us."
That's not the recipe for a fill-in quarterback to have success, particularly with an offensive line missing four of its projected five starters at the start of training camp. All-Pro guard Zack Martin exited with a concussion in the first half and will be re-evaluated in concussion protocol this week.
Elliott took the blame for the loss, saying his two early fumbles "killed our momentum."
"I'm sorry. This one's on me, and I need to be better for this team," he said.
But McCarthy says the team's most glaring issue after six games starts with him.
Ball security is the foundation of his program. Through six weeks, the Cowboys' identity has been the exact opposite.
"We've got work to do," he said, and we have to do it fast because we've got Washington coming on us quickly (this Sunday)."