The Dallas Cowboys made it interesting with a fourth quarter that many will likely remember for a long time. Unfortunately, the team's first three quarters amounted to something most fans would just as soon forget.
Winning is tougher when you're not only battling the opponent but also yourself. Continuing a disturbing trend, the Cowboys' own mistakes and just general poor play led to an unexpected 49-38 home loss to the Cleveland Browns.
Dallas just had no answer for Cleveland's offense. Even with standout running back Nick Chubb leaving the game early, the Browns still had their way with the Cowboys defense for most of the afternoon. Led by Kareem Hunt, Cleveland totaled 307 yards rushing, averaging 7.7 yards per carry.
With the ground game onslaught, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield just had to be efficient, and he was, earning only 156 yards passing, but throwing two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 100.0 passer rating. In all, the Dallas defense gave up 508 yards of total offense.
In trying to make up for that effort, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott did what he could, picking up a career-high 502 yards passing with four touchdowns and a 112.9 rating. Amari Cooper was his primary target, hauling in 12 passes for 134 yards, but three additional players had at least 70 receiving yards: CeeDee Lamb (79), Dalton Schultz (72) and Ezekiel Elliott (71). Dallas finished the game with 566 total yards of offense.
This was an offensive shootout right from the start, as Cleveland needed only four plays on its first possession to span 69 yards to the end zone. The early score came when the Browns used a gadget play that saw Jarvis Landry on a reverse connect on a 37-yard pass to fellow receiver Odell Beckham.
But that's when Prescott went to work, completing 10 of 11 attempts in the first quarter for 174 yards and two touchdowns, the most yardage thrown by a Cowboys quarterback in the first quarter in team history. The initial trip across the goal line came courtesy of Lamb, the rookie sprinting past the Browns' secondary for a wide open 43-yard touchdown, the first of his NFL career.
That was followed by the Cowboys marching 84 yards in nine plays, Prescott threading the needle to Cooper on fourth-and-2 at the Cleveland 20-yard line, the Pro Bowl wideout waltzing into the end zone for the score and a 14-7 lead.
The good times wouldn't last, though. The Cowboys came into their Week 4 matchup tied for 27th in the NFL with a minus-4 turnover ratio. Their opponent was tied for fifth at plus-3. Form held true.
After Cleveland equaled Dallas with a nine-play, 75-yard drive – Mayfield connecting with Beckham again – the Browns forced fumbles on the Cowboys' next two possessions. Given the gifts, Cleveland took advantage. Mayfield wrapped up a short 34-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown toss to tight end Austin Hooper, which was then followed by a 2-yard run by Kareem Hunt.
Throw in a 37-yard field goal by Cleveland as the second quarter expired and the Browns went into the break having put up points on five of their six possessions in the half. The Dallas defense gave up 333 yards of total offense in the first 30 minutes alone.
When the Browns then came out for the second half and bullied the ball right down the field, Hunt earning himself another score with a 14-yard run off left tackle, the game seemed essentially over. Cleveland even added another 44-yard field goal shortly thereafter, a total of 34 unanswered points.
To their credit, though, the Cowboys didn't give up the fight, as in a span of nine minutes of play, Dallas reeled off 24 points of its own.
The first touchdown came thanks to an 11-play, 77-yard drive, which was followed by an eight play, 84-yarder. Tony Pollard got the points on the former with a 3-yard run with Prescott firing a 26-yard strike to tight end Dalton Schultz to earn the second score. And Dallas converted the two-point conversion on each, so were down only 11 points with 6:32 remaining in the game.
With the Dallas defense making a much-needed stand, the Cowboys then proceeded to add eight more points on another 11-play drive, this one for 80 yards. Lamb hauled in a 5-yard catch for the touchdown with Cooper adding the two-point conversion.
All of a sudden, the Cowboys were down just three points with 3:37 on the clock.
But the Browns recovered the ensuing onside kick and on the very next snap, Beckham ran a reverse around the right end, darting through traffic 50 yards for the touchdown. The extra point was blocked, but the Cowboys tried to recover it, making it a live ball and Cleveland eventually fell on the bouncing prize for the unlikely two-point conversion.
There would be no more heroics for the Cowboys after that. Back down by 11, they did manage to drive to the Browns' 8-yard line, but on first-and-goal with 1:42 left, Prescott's intended pass to Cooper over the middle was picked off, game over.
With the loss, the Cowboys dropped to 1-3 on the season and were left still searching for answers on how to break these disappointing trends.
The Cowboys are back at AT&T Stadium next Sunday, October 11th to take on their rivals, the New York Giants. A limited number of tickets are on sale now. Get yours now before they sell out!
Details on all of the health and safety procedures you can expect at AT&T Stadium this season can be viewed at www.DallasCowboys.com/safestadium.