FRISCO, Texas – There's plenty to dissect in the wake of the Cowboys' first loss of the season.
Whether it's the play calling, the quarterback, the offensive line or the receivers, every aspect of the Cowboys' offense will be examined in trying to determine how they finished with just 257 yards and 10 points.
To hear it from Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones, it all tied together – and a big part of why was where the game was being played.
"The biggest thing I think last night showed us is we've got to be a team that can thrive in a tough environment," Jones said Monday on 105.3 FM The Fan. "We've got work to do there. It was obviously a hyped up game, and as anyone who was there can tell you it was really loud and really difficult to communicate."
The scene inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome was rowdy, to put it mildly. Whether it was crowd noise or just a pressure-packed situation, it did seem to lead to mistake. The Cowboys were flagged twice on early downs, putting them in 1st-and-20 and 2nd-and-20 situations.
There was also the matter of failing to gain yards on early downs. The Cowboys ran the ball 11 times on first down against the Saints, managing roughly 25 yards of offense out of those attempts.
"We got behind the chains quite a bit on first down where we had second-and-long, which we haven't seen much this year," Jones said. "That ended up being a challenge for us, and we weren't able to get into a rhythm and make the plays that we've been making most of the year."
Jones was sure to credit the Saints' defensive game plan. Regardless of criticism of the Cowboys' play calling, it's been rare for opponents to limit Ezekiel Elliott to less than 50 rushing yards. Heading into Sunday's matchup, only three opponents – Denver, Washington and the Los Angeles Rams – had been able to hold Elliott below that threshold, and the Saints were able to join the club by limiting him to just 35 yards on the ground.
"They really put the brakes on Zeke. And then they were really getting some pressure on Dak," Jones said. "Obviously, in an environment like that, it makes it difficult to communicate and you're going to have some mentals in there where you don't get your communication just right."
Fortunately for the Cowboys, it might be a while before they enter an environment like that again. Two of their next three games are at home, and both of their next two road trips are at MetLife Stadium – which is home to two struggling teams.
There are big road dates looming later this season, though – at places like New England, Chicago and Philadelphia. Hopefully Sunday can be a learning experience.
"If we're going to be a great football team, we've got to be able to thrive in an environment like that. Certainly we can improve in that area," Jones said.