Can we blame this on the time change? Whatever the reason, the Dallas Cowboys just never woke up, seemingly out of sync all day in losing to the Denver Broncos, 30-16.
The Cowboys' 100th regular-season game in AT&T Stadium's history certainly didn't go as planned as time and time again Denver thrashed through the Dallas defense for big gains. The Broncos had 18 plays of at least 10 yards, of which six went for 20 or more with two for over 40-plus.
In all, the Broncos racked up 407 yards of total offense as running back Javonte Williams earned the first 100-yard rushing game of his career, finishing with 111 as part of a ground attack that earned 190 yards overall. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater also completed 67.9 percent of his passes for 249 yards and a touchdown for a 107.6 passer rating.
Meanwhile, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, returning from a calf injury, had one of the worst games of his overall stellar career. He struggled to get on the same page as his receivers, completing only 48.72 percent of his pass attempts – equaling the second-worst total of his career – for 232 passing yards, although much of that yardage came late with the game already well decided.
As a team, Dallas finished with 290 yards of offense and were nothing short of dismal on third and fourth downs, combining to go 5 for 17 (29.4%) in those situations.
The Cowboys crossed midfield on each of their first two possessions, which included a 54-yard return on the opening kickoff by Tony Pollard. But they came up empty when they failed to convert on fourth-and-short both times.
Unfortunately, on Denver's second possession, the visitors took their first trip into enemy territory and made good, traveling 80 yards in 11 plays to reach the end zone. The Broncos earned their yards in chunks, picking up gains of 11, 20, 25 and 13 yards along the way while also being helped by a pass interference call in the end zone on third-and-goal that granted a fresh set of downs. That led to a 3-yard Melvin Gordon run off left tackle for the six points, although Denver missed the extra point.
The struggles for Dallas continued as the second frame got underway, and again the big plays were proving troublesome. After pick-ups of 17 and 11 yards, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater then threw a 44-yard bomb down the left sideline, connecting with wideout Tim Patrick for the touchdown and a double-digit lead.
Sounding a bit like a broken record, Denver added three more points on a 53-yard field goal after a drive that included gains of 12, 19 and 11 yards. Plus, they had another 12-yarder called back due to a penalty. Twice the Cowboys couldn't get off the field on third down, one of which came after the Broncos started with first-and-20.
Down 16-0 at the break, Dallas had only 109 yards of total offense as Prescott completed just five of 14 pass attempts for a meager 75 yards. And on the other side of the ball, the defense had already given up more rushing yards in the first half than Dallas had been surrendering on average per game this season (88.3).
And just when you thought things couldn't get any uglier, here came the third quarter. It started when Malik Turner blocked a punt deep in Denver's territory. But in a strange NFL rule, because the Cowboys touched the ball first past the line of scrimmage with Denver then picking it up, the Broncos retained possession even though they didn't reach the first down marker.
Given the gift after that crazy turn of events, Denver once again sliced and diced the Cowboys defense for big gain after big gain. Williams bulled his way to a 30-yard pick up with Bridgewater then completing passes of 11 and 20 yards. That resulted in another three points, this time a 27-yard field goal.
If there was any doubt that this just wasn't the Cowboys day, it was perhaps assured on their first possession of the second half. After Amari Cooper dropped a wide open pass that would have moved the chains on third down, Prescott overshot an open CeeDee Lamb on a deep ball, the offense once again failing on fourth down.
But, the failure this time came in their own territory as the Broncos took over at Dallas' 40-yard line. Thankfully, though, the Cowboys caught a break when Denver missed a 53-yard field goal attempt.
The Broncos were on the move again as the clock ticked over into the final quarter, the team finishing off a 13-play, 85-yard drive with a touchdown less than four minutes into fourth frame. No surprise at this point, the big play again doomed the Dallas defense.
After gains of 14 and 16 yards during the series, Bridgewater hit receiver Kendall Hinton in stride for a 40-yard completion down to the Cowboys' 3-yard line. Three plays later, Bridgewater extended the ball over the goal line for the score, adding a pass to Courtland Sutton for the two-point conversion and an unbelievable 27-0 lead.
With Denver then adding a 42-yard field goal, the only question now was whether the Cowboys could actually put any points on the board. Which they did at least manage to do. A nine-play, 75-yard drive was capped with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Turner, the second scoring catch of his career. Elliott hammered in for the two-point conversion, avoiding the first home shutout since 1991.
Turner added a second touchdown on the day with just under a minute remaining, the first multi-touchdown game of his career, although the effort would be lost in the overall disappointment of the day. Prescott dove in for the two-point conversion, but it was all far too little, far too late.
While the dismal afternoon brought an end to the Cowboys' six-game winning streak, they still hold a firm lead in the NFC East with a 6-2 record.