IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys would have never needed an epic comeback to make up a 23-point deficit if not for their first quarter struggles, which are becoming a theme this season.
Through seven games, the Cowboys have a total of 14 first quarter points, while their opponents put up 33. The Cowboys have only outscored opponents in the third quarter, but they've stayed within 10 points of opponents in every quarter after the first.
Most of the early low point total can be attributed to turnovers, which are coming in droves. Two of quarterback Tony Romo's four interceptions occurred in the first quarter Sunday. The Cowboys had a first quarter turnover on downs the first time they played the Giants in the opener, and Felix Jones fumbled the opening kickoff against Seattle.
"Oftentimes, we're playing from behind," said head coach Jason Garrett. "I think the biggest thing is when you don't start off well and you punt and you kind of play neutrally early on, OK, that happens to every team in the league. Study offenses and how they do in first drives and all of that. The biggest issue we've had is that we've started so negatively that it hasn't been neutral."
The fumbled return wasn't the only first quarter mistake against the Seahawks. Chris Jones' punt was blocked for a touchdown on the Cowboys' next possession, and Romo was picked off at the Seahawks' 24-yard line one possession later. The list of first quarter mistakes continued a week later against Tampa Bay, when the Cowboys began the game with two incomplete passes, a false start and an interception on the first drive.
The Cowboys have allowed fewer points in the first quarter than in any other, yet they're still being outscored by 19. Dallas trails its opponents, 80-54, in the first halves of games this season.
"We've given up the ball," Garrett said. "We've put the defense in bad field position. Maybe we haven't stopped their offense as well as we wanted to on that first drive. That's something you continue to focus on. Just getting guys comfortable enough into the game so they don't make those plays that are so negative for you is something we'll continue to stress."
Garrett insisted the poor starts have nothing to do with being emotionally detached or unprepared.
"I don't think it's that at all," Garrett said. "I think, more than anything else, it's just getting it to the point where you're executing and not doing things that are so negative. That's a process we'll continue to work on and give specific examples to our players and hopefully as we go forward, starting with Atlanta, we'll get that rectified."