IRVING, Texas - Don't let Sunday's miraculous comeback attempt overshadow the recurring turnover issue that's tormented this team all season.
A 24-point swing served as a façade for a while against the Giants, but the early giveaways put Dallas in too deep a hole to dig out of, even with a furious second-half comeback. Through seven games this year, the Cowboys have won just one turnover battle, while their turnover ratio dipped to minus-11.
Head coach Jason Garrett understands that issue and said he preaches ball security to his team relentlessly. But somewhere along the line, the message hasn't gotten through. It's no secret that teams who hold on to the ball and can force their opponents into mistakes tend to win football games.
Just take a look at the Cowboys victories this year. In the opener, both teams turned the ball over just one time, as Dallas secured a narrow victory in New Jersey. At no other point this season has the turnover ratio been zero.
The Cowboys squeaked out a win against Tampa Bay, despite a minus-one turnover ratio in that game. Both of the Cowboys blowout losses this season against Seattle and Chicago occurred after turning the ball over at least two more times than their opponent.
The matchup against the Panthers is the only time this year that the Cowboys left a stadium winning a turnover battle, and that's only because of a failed lateral at the end of the game in the Panthers' desperate attempt to reach the end zone.
That Carolina game also marked the only time this season an opposing quarterback threw more interceptions than the Cowboys. In fact, it was the only game this season in which quarterback Tony Romo finished with a clean slate, successfully keeping the ball away from his opponent for 60 minutes.
Romo set a career-high in passing yardage Sunday, while also throwing at least four interceptions for the second time this year. His nine touchdown passes this season are surpassed by his 13 interceptions, but at no point did Garrett think about benching Romo. As Garrett said, "turnovers are a team thing," incapable of being pinned solely on his quarterback.
It turned out to be the right call, as Romo helped lead the charge back in the third quarter, spreading 250 of his 437 passing yards in the second half. But the Cowboys couldn't finish off what would have been their greatest comeback in team history, and it all goes back to the early mistakes.
"Any time you give a team that many turnovers, especially a good ball club, it's going to be tough to win the game," Romo said after the loss.
He may realize the problem, but halfway through the season, his realization hasn't translated to ball security on the football field for him or his teammates.
Something new every week seems to prohibit the Cowboys from playing to their potential. Sometimes it's penalties. Sometimes it's drops. But the one constant issue they haven't fixed is the amount of careless turnovers they give to other teams. Until that's figured out, creeping back over .500 won't be realistic.