No matter how hard they try, the Dallas Cowboys just can't seem to put together a complete game.
And this time they paid for it, as the team couldn't overcome its sloppy play to salvage another victory, instead falling in overtime to the Jacksonville Jaguars, 40-34.
Two weeks ago, three quarters of frustrating football was erased by an avalanche of points in the fourth quarter against the struggling Indianapolis Colts. Then last Sunday, a winning drive in the final minutes expunged the misery felt over the first 56 minutes of their game vs. the lowly Houston Texans.
Now this. The Cowboys could seemingly do no wrong in the first half, jumping out to a 14-point lead as Dak Prescott completed 15 of 16 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns while the running game churned out 4.3 yards per carry for a total of 91 rushing yards. Needless to say, all was going well.
Midway through the third quarter, though, the Cowboys just completely lost their rhythm, and before they knew it, had blown a multi-touchdown lead in the second half for the second time this season. They also did so in the fourth quarter in a loss at Green Bay back on Nov. 13.
And similar to that result against the Packers, the Cowboys could never quite shake off their doldrums, losing in spectacular fashion.
Statistically, Prescott's overall day was good, as he completed 76.7 percent of his passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns for a 107.1 passer rating. But his two interceptions proved costly.
Dallas also finished with 154 yards rushing and dominated the time of possession, 35:26 to 27:42. But Jacksonville racked up 503 yards of offense with quarterback Trevor Lawrence throwing four touchdowns and totaling 318 passing yards for a 109.0 rating.
After safety Donovan Wilson pounced on a Travis Etienne fumble, the Cowboys' second possession of the game was set up nicely at Jacksonville's 41-yard line. From there, Dallas needed only six plays to reach the end zone. Tony Pollard handled the ball on the first four plays for 23 yards before Ezekiel Elliott go the last two carries, rushing for eight and then the final 10 yards for the touchdown and an early lead.
With that, Elliott has now run for a score in seven straight games, the longest active streak in the NFL. He also joins Emmitt Smith as the only players in Cowboys history with a rushing touchdown in at least seven consecutive contests.
The Cowboys were on the march once again when the clock ticked over into the second quarter. Prescott went 5-for-5 on his pass attempts during the drive for 56 yards, the points coming when he dropped a beautiful 20-yard pass into the arms of Peyton Hendershot for the rookie tight end's second career touchdown catch.
Dallas' party was paused, however, when Jacksonville came right back and put their first points on the board. Three consecutive plays during the series gained 13, 13 and 18 yards, respectively, before Lawrence connected with Zay Jones across the middle for the five-yard touchdown.
But the good times were back on for Dallas with an 11-play, 68-yard drive that was again led by Prescott. The quarterback was perfect on all five of his pass attempts and ran for 12 yards as well down to the Jaguars' one-yard line. Two of those completions were to Noah Brown, the first gaining 14 yards and the second bringing the touchdown and a 21-7 lead at the half.
The second half began with a flurry of field goals. Jacksonville's came first with a 33-yarder, but Dallas answered with a pair of its own. An eight-play, 69-yard drive ended with a Brett Maher 24-yard field goal, and then after rookie DaRon Bland recorded his fourth interception of the season, Maher booted a 53-yarder, extending his team record with his ninth of the year from at least 50 yards.
The Cowboys were feeling comfortable with a 27-10 advantage.
And then, unfortunately, the momentum clearly shifted as the Jaguars erupted for 14 points before the end of the third quarter. The receiver Jones used a double-move to get behind cornerback Kelvin Joseph, hauled in the pass from Lawrence and sprinted 59 yards for the touchdown.
But things would go from bad to worse. After Prescott was sacked for eight yards back to the Cowboys' eight-yard line, the quarterback sailed a pass intended for Dalton Schultz that was corralled by safety Rayshawn Jenkins, who returned the pick 10 yards to the Dallas 29-yard line. Four snaps later, Lawrence hit Marvin Jones Jr. in the end zone for the touchdown, the Cowboys lead now only three, 27-24.
At this point, Dallas seemingly had no answer for the Jaguars. After the Cowboys went three-and-out, Lawrence and company took off on an eight-play, 75-yard drive for yet another touchdown. Zay Jones got free in the end zone for a three-yard catch, his third score of the day, a new career high.
Finally – Finally! – the pendulum swung the other way. Desperately needing a spark, Prescott led his troops on an extended 13-play, 75-yard drive that ate seven minutes off the clock. The quarterback started the series with a 25-yard completion to CeeDee Lamb and then finished it up with his second touchdown pass to Brown, the first multi-score game of the receiver's career. On the 13-yard touchdown, Prescott spun to his left to avoid the rush before finding his target in the end zone, Dallas going back on top.
But, of course, the game wasn't over and that fickle pendulum eventually swung back to the home side.
The Jaguars got possession with just over three minutes remaining and were at midfield when Lawrence scrambled out of the pocket and darted across the 50-yard line with what would have been a first down. But that's when safety Jayron Kearse jarred the ball loose from the Jacksonville quarterback, linebacker Micah Parsons landing on the prize.
Still, when the Cowboys then went three-and-out again, the Jaguars had one more shot with 1:01 left. And Dallas just couldn't catch a break. After a five-yard catch to the Dallas 49 forced Jacksonville to use its final timeout with 11 seconds remaining, replays showed that the receiver was actually out of bounds with 12 seconds on the clock, giving the Jaguars their timeout back.
And they used it. Lawrence found Jones for 19 yards, called timeout and then watched as Riley Patterson kicked a 48-yard field goal to send the game into overtime, 34-34.
The Dallas defense did its job, forcing a punt to give the Cowboys the ball at their own 20-yard line and a short toss to Pollard immediately picked up 21.
And then it was over.
Three snaps later, Prescott, under pressure, tried to dump a pass off to Brown. But the wideout couldn't haul in the lower throw, the ball bouncing off his hands and chest and into the waiting arms of Jenkins. The safety then dashed 52 yards untouched down the right sideline for the winning touchdown.
With the loss, the Cowboys failed to clinch a playoff spot and must now shake off the disappointment and prepare themselves for perhaps their biggest game of the year, a showdown next Saturday at home against the rival Philadelphia Eagles.