EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – At this point, Dak Prescott is catching hell from his own defense in addition to the one across from him.
True to his competitive nature, Prescott revealed that he'd made a bet with his own defense on Saturday before this game. And as the Dallas defense racked up another four turnovers in yet another defense-dominated outing, it was evident who was winning that wager.
"I'll let everyone know the defense is kicking our ass, but it's turnovers versus touchdowns," Prescott said. "They obviously won this one, but we'll make sure it carries over. They're doing a great job getting the ball."
It's fortunate for Prescott that the bet was only made this weekend. Including this latest pick party against the New York Giants, the Cowboys' defense has now tallied 12 takeaways in the month of December.
As fun as that statistic might be, it also emphasizes the depth of the problems on offense. In that same stretch, the Cowboys' offense has scored a mere five touchdowns, with two of those coming Sunday in another disjointed performance.
"It's definitely frustrating," Prescott said. "As I said, the defense is doing a great job giving us the ball, giving us the ball in plus territory. We've got to find a way to get in the end zone, simple as that."
The goal is simple, but correcting it clearly is not. If it were, the Cowboys' offense would be averaging more than 20 points a game – which is currently their scoring average, not including a couple defensive touchdowns over the last few weeks.
As has often been the case, there's also no obvious culprit. The Cowboys actually ran the ball quite well on Sunday afternoon, with Tony Pollard returning to add a spark. Dalton Schultz also provided a useful presence underneath, catching eight passes for 67 yards and the touchdown that ultimately put the game out of reach.
"The underneath stuff can always open up when you have weapons on the edge like we do," Schultz said.
It opened up fairly effectively. The Cowboys' backs and tight ends accounted for 56% of Prescott's passing yards on the day. The problem came when the Cowboys looked for explosive plays. CeeDee Lamb had multiple drops in the passing games that offset potential long gains, and Prescott still seemed unable to find a rhythm with his primary receivers – most notably Amari Cooper, who finished with two catches for eight yards.
"That's just the way that these teams have been playing us," Prescott said. "When you've got the guys that we've got outside, they're going to put a cap on it. They're not going to let you get throws over the top."
That's been a theme for much of this win streak. The Giants focused on taking the deep ball away, and with the exception of a completion or two were largely successful. Prescott said his lone turnover of the day, a strip-sack midway through the fourth quarter, came a result of trying to make a big play happen.
"I know the fumble was me being greedy, trying to get the ball to Coop when I should've just taken Michael Gallup on the hitch," he said.
And so, this latest road trip ends the same way as the last two – a victorious plane road home, albeit one with some urgency. No NFL team is ever going to apologize for a win, let alone three and a row. But the Cowboys are aware they are an offense that has scored just four touchdowns in their last 13 trips to the red zone.
Prescott understands that wins are hard to come by. He also understands the need for improvement.
"Celebrate and enjoy this plane ride with your teammates, but watch the film at the same time – and be critical," he said. "Be critical of my decisions, be critical of the offense, but make sure we're taking notes and doing everything we need to progress and to learn from this and move forward in the right way."
According to Prescott, this bet will roll over in the coming weeks. There will be time to catch the defense, though the clock is ticking.