Yards are nice. Time of possession is great. But if you can't get the ball in the end zone, the stats just don't matter.
The Cowboys seemingly had no trouble moving up and down the field against Indianapolis, especially in the first half, but as has been the case for much of the season, they struggled to get in the end zone. Combine that with a defense that had a tough day of its own and the result was an ugly 23-0 loss, Dallas' five-game winning streak coming to a halting end.
Heading into the game, Andrew Luck was the primary focus of DeMarcus Lawrence and company as the Colts' passing game was ranked sixth in the league. But the quarterback was largely held in check, Luck finishing the day with 192 yards on 16 of 27 passing with no touchdowns for an 81.1 passer rating.
But the Cowboys had no real answer for Indianapolis running back Marlon Mack. The Colts were ranked 24th in the league in rushing with Dallas owning the second-ranked rushing defense. Mack, though, darted through the Cowboys for a career-high 139 yards and two touchdowns, becoming the first player to rush for more than 100 yards and score twice against Dallas since the 2015 season.
His counterpart on the other side of the ball, Ezekiel Elliott, once again led the Dallas offensive charge, finishing with 132 yards from scrimmage, which included 87 on the ground and 45 receiving. But he was about the only bright spot for the team on an otherwise miserable day. Dak Prescott completed 61.5 percent of his passes for 206 yards but threw one interception for a 64.7 rating.
The frustration for Cowboys fans came right from the start, as things couldn't have gone any worse for the team in the first quarter. Sure, they racked up the yards, outgaining Indianapolis 112 yards to 44 while owning an 11:14 to 3:46 time of possession. But it was the Colts who owned the 7-0 advantage after 15 minutes of play.
Dallas took its opening drive into enemy territory, reaching the Indianapolis 27-yard line, but there the drive stalled and Brett Maher came out for a 48-yard field goal attempt. But his kick was blocked by Denico Autry and recovered at the Cowboys' 44-yard line by the Colts' Darius Leonard.
Given the shorter field, the home side then needed eight plays to reach the end zone, Mack bullying in from the 1-yard line for the game's first points, 7-0.
Again, the Cowboys were able to march down the field on their second series, but the team's struggles inside the red zone reared its ugly head once more. On third-and-1 at the 3-yard line, Prescott had Jamize Olawale open on the left side of the end zone, but the fullback dropped the pass. Elliott then got the handoff when the Cowboys decided to go for it on fourth-and-1, but the running back was stuffed for a 2-yard loss.
And it was more of the same just before the half. Dallas began at its own 9-yard line and again crossed midfield, reaching the Indianapolis 37. But a 10-yard sack on third-and-9 pushed the team out of field goal range, forcing a punt.
That gave the Colts the ball at their own 16-yard line with 1:53 left in the second quarter, which was plenty of time for Luck to move his team 59 yards in 11 plays, where Adam Vinatieri split the uprights on a 43-yard field goal to give the home side a 10-0 lead at the break.
Consider that through the first 30 minutes of play, Prescott was 12 of 19 for 106 yards and a 78.0 passer rating, while Luck was 11 of 20 for 108 yards and a 70.4 rating. As a team, Dallas had 179 total offensive yards to the Colt's 170 with both teams owning 12 first downs. Despite that, the Cowboys had a zero on the scoreboard.
When Indianapolis then came back out and put up points on each of its two possessions of the third quarter, the game was essentially done. Mack did most of the damage on the first series as he ran the ball four times for 45 yards, his last carry producing a 6-yard scamper to the end zone.
Dallas crossed midfield again on its next drive, but a holding call on what appeared to be a successful conversion on third-and-2 pushed the Cowboys back to their side of the 50-yard line and brought out the punting unit. Ten plays and a 44-yard field goal from Vinatieri later and the Cowboys were looking at their largest deficit of the season, 20-0, as the clock ticked over into the fourth quarter.
The rest of the game was basically more of the same. Twice the Cowboys turned the ball over on downs, unable to convert on fourth-and-1 and fourth-and-14, with the Colts adding a 23-yard field goal in between those possessions to round out the scoring, 23-0.
Dallas did have an opportunity to at least get on the scoreboard when they recovered a fumble at the Indianapolis 35-yard line. But on fourth-and-12 at the 26, Prescott's pass tipped off the hands of Blake Jarwin and into the arms of safety George Odum for the interception. It was just that kind of day.
The defeat, combined with the Washington Redskins' victory, also put the team's NFC East title celebration on hold, their record falling to 8-6. They'll be back in action next Sunday at noon when they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at AT&T Stadium.