ARLINGTON, Texas – It's not an easy thing to pinpoint, and maybe that's why Dak Prescott mentioned several issues when discussing a lackluster second half by the Cowboys' offense.
"We need to find a better consistency in our offense, in running the ball and throwing the ball," he said. "Me and my accuracy – we've got to be consistent throughout the whole game."
It's startling that these were issues for an offense and a quarterback that did everything right through the first half of Sunday's 35-30 loss to the Rams. The Cowboys went to the locker room leading, 24-16, and having racked up 287 yards of offense.
When Ezekiel Elliott was stopped on fourth down to finish the Cowboys' comeback bid, they finished the second half with just six points and 153 yards to show for it.
"It's frustrating. We come out, we're on fire and we're feeling good," Prescott said. "Then we go into halftime and come back, and it is not the same."
It had to be a frustrating afternoon for Prescott individually, as well. The stat sheet shows a fairly productive afternoon, as he completed 20-of-36 passes for 252 yards with a quarterback rating of 93.8. He routinely escaped a ferocious Rams pass rush, even shaking off a big hit from Aaron Donald to complete an 18-yard pass to Dez Bryant on a crucial third down.
He finished his day with three touchdowns, to Ezekiel Elliott, Brice Butler and James Hanna – and he threw in another 25 rushing yards, on top of that.
And yet, for all of that, it was undoubtedly a disappointing effort for the second-year quarterback. The Cowboys went just 2-of-7 on third down after halftime. They dropped passes. And on multiple occasions – a missed touchdown to Jason Witten, an overthrown slant to Dez Bryant – Prescott couldn't quite get the ball where he wanted to.
"I missed some throws in the second half that I didn't miss in the first half or that I can't miss, simply," he said. "I just have to be more accurate, especially two-minute drives."
It all came to a close in a sequence that encapsulated these problems. On the last-gasp, two-minute drive, Prescott completed just 2-of-7 passes. He saw one attempt dropped by Terrance Williams. He couldn't find open receivers. He inadvertently brought the game to a close when he threw short to Elliott on 4th-and-10, seeing his running back come up just one yard short.
"I knew I had to go somewhere with the ball," he said. "There was one guy for Zeke to beat. When I threw the ball, I felt like he was going to do that. I guess I can easily say now that I could have extended it and gotten it done, but from my viewpoint I thought that Zeke could make the guy miss and go get it, but we didn't."
It was a perplexing end to a perplexing day. Statistically speaking, the Cowboys played well enough to win the game. But statistics can often lie, and this loss serves as evidence. On a day when the Cowboys needed to keep pace to stem the opponent's momentum in the second half, they weren't quite up the challenge.
"It's frustrating, but it is about finding what it is," Prescott said. "We are definitely going to do that, going back tomorrow and Tuesday and get better at it."