EAST RUTHORFORD, N.J. – Sunday marked a surreal milestone for the Cowboys in a league where parity is king.
As they changed out of their uniforms following Sunday's 10-7 loss to the Giants, the Cowboys reflected on a defeat for the first time in exactly 90 days. The last time this team had to reflect on a setback came all the way back on Sept. 11 – the first day of the regular season.
"It was good to win 11 games in a row, we played some really good football," said Jason Witten. "We have to get back. We weren't ourselves offensively tonight. We will – we'll answer the bell. We'll get started on it tomorrow."
The Cowboys' paltry score of just seven points should provide plenty of confirmation of Witten's assessment. It was not the type of performance that's become customary of such an efficient offense. Coupled with last week's point total of just 17 points, and it's the Cowboys' worst stretch since scoring just 19 points in that season-opening loss to the Giants.
"We were inconsistent tonight, and again, I want to emphasize – for me, I'm giving the Giants the credit for creating that inconsistency," said Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones.
Unusual as it might be to lose, now begins the process of bouncing back from a loss. The Cowboys proved pretty effective at it in September, as they rebounded for a 27-23 win against Washington. As unfortunate a situation as it may be, Dak Prescott said the loss could help the Cowboys re-up their focus.
"You never want to say it's good to lose. I hate to lose. It's a bad feeling," he said. "But it kind of gets you resettled, gets you back right."
He added: "I mean, after we lost to these guys the first time, we went on that run, so maybe we can do something similar."
There would be a huge response to the current situation. Even with the loss, the Cowboys still hold a two-game lead in the NFC East. They've already secured a playoff bid, and the division title and a postseason bye week are both easily attainable with a few weeks remaining in the regular season.
"We really have to focus on going out there and trying to win out the rest of these games, getting homefield advantage, getting that bye so we can finish this season the way we want to finish it," said Ezekiel Elliott.
It was oddly amusing to hear such measured responses from the Cowboys' two high-profile rookies. Sunday served as the first true road loss in Elliott's entire football career, while Prescott was processing a poor performance for the first time in just 13 NFL starts.
But if either player was alarmed by the loss, he didn't show it – and Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said that attitude was commonplace.
"We have a lot of fighters in that room," Garrett said. "Disappointed in not finding a way to win this ball game, but a tremendous amount of fight throughout the game."
That brings Witten back into play, as the All-Pro tight end has a bit more experience with the downs of an NFL campaign that Elliott or Prescott. Witten's point was fairly straightforward, and it's something that's bound to get repeated as the Cowboys focus on bouncing back.
"I think the message is simple: it's December, we're 11-2, we've got ourselves in good position," Witten said. "Tonight wasn't a good football game, and we have to go get better and get back to work. I think everybody is approaching it the same way."