ARLINGTON, Texas – Dak Prescott hasn't been through a stretch in his football career, at any level.
The Cowboys have now lost three straight games by an average of 23.3 points. The offense has scored only two touchdowns and failed to reach double-digits in that span.
And Prescott has now thrown five interceptions in the last two games: three last Sunday against the Eagles, and two in Thursday's 28-6 loss to the L.A. Chargers at AT&T Stadium, including one returned for a touchdown.
Last year, Prescott threw four picks in his entire rookie season.
"I don't know how many it is – five or six turnovers in two games?" he said. "I've been seasons without that many. It's very frustrating."
Thursday, he got help from the running game without suspended starter Ezekiel Elliott. Alfred Morris and Rod Smith combined for 77 yards on 18 carries. Smith scored the offense's only touchdown of the game with 12:48 left in the fourth quarter, cutting the Chargers' lead to 16-6 before Philip Rivers put the game away with a 42-yard touchdown pass to Keenan Allen.
Once again, though, the Cowboys (5-6) couldn't unlock their own downfield passing game. Prescott completed 20 of 27 passes for 179 yards, but only one throw went for over 20 yards: Terrance Williams' 38-yard catch midway through the fourth quarter, after the Chargers had already taken their commanding 22-6 lead.
Tight end Jason Witten led all Cowboys receivers with 7 catches, but his longest gain was 8 yards.
In fact, the offense has produced only three explosive pass plays during this three-game slide: Williams' 38-yard catch Thursday, a 30-yard catch by Brice Butler against Atlanta on Nov. 12, and a 21-yard catch by Witten against Atlanta.
"I think more than anything it was just the entire offense," head coach Jason Garrett said. "We weren't able to sustain things throughout the ballgame. I do think we ran the ball fairly well early on in the game. We had some success, but unfortunately we weren't able to convert those third downs to keep those drives alive.
"Everybody's got a piece of it. It starts up front, but the quarterback, the runners, the guys outside, certainly as a coaching staff we're always looking at ourselves and what our role is in it."
Prescott also was sacked twice in the first half Thursday, pushing his total to 14 in the last 12 quarters. All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith (groin) returned from a two-game absence, but All-Pro right guard Zack Martin left with a head injury in the first half and did not return.
Prescott's biggest play of the day -- a 34-yard touchdown run with the Cowboys trailing 9-0 in third quarter -- was called back due to a Smith holding penalty. The offense would later punt.
It's no secret that Prescott's numbers have dipped in this three-game slide without Elliott or a fully healthy offensive line. In the first eight games, he averaged 11.2 yards per completion, threw 16 touchdowns to 4 interceptions, and rushed for 4 touchdowns.
In the last three games, Prescott has averaged 8.62 yards per completion with one rushing touchdown, no passing touchdowns and 5 interceptions. He hasn't topped 200 passing yards during that stretch.
"I take more responsibility in a loss like this, when the offense is in a funk," he said. "I'm the leader of the unit, and I've got to figure out what to do to get that whole unit rolling consistently."
But Witten echoed Garrett, saying the entire offense shares in its recent struggles.
"He's one hell of a competitor," Witten said of Prescott. "He'll learn from it, as we all will. We've got to help him out and stay together."
Team owner/general manager Jerry Jones said he's "not at all" concerned about his second-year starting quarterback.
"He's our future," Jones said. "I saw nothing today, last week or the week before, that compromised my thought about his future."
Collectively, though, the offense must find its way out of that funk if the Cowboys have any hope of remaining in the NFC playoff hunt.