Mike McCarthy doesn't know how many ways he can say it.
The Cowboys aren't doing the things necessary to win football games, right down to the fundamentals. Almost halfway through the season, there hasn't been any considerable sign of progress.
Same story after Sunday's 25-3 road loss to Washington dropped Dallas (2-5) out of first place in a struggling NFC East.
"We're not doing the basics. Let's quit candy coating it," McCarthy said. "I can't stand up here and keep talking about taking care of the football, taking the ball away and just the fundamentals.
"Whether we haven't had enough time together or whatever the case is, at the end of the day, the schedule is set and we need to continue to work because we need improvement each day, each week especially before we go to Philadelphia."
The Eagles (2-4-1) are up next, and now Philly sits atop the division with a comeback win over the Giants on Thursday night.
To dig out of this 2-5 start, the Cowboys have to look at themselves first.
For the sixth straight game since the opener, the team had a negative turnover margin (minus-1). For the second time this year they allowed a first-quarter safety (an unofficial turnover) and Washington scored a touchdown on the next possession for an early 9-0 lead.
For the sixth straight game since the opener, the Cowboys trailed by double digits. And for the fourth time in seven games, the defense did not register a takeaway. For the season, they're tied for the fewest in the league (3).
Injuries have been a factor, no doubt. Already without Dak Prescott (ankle surgery), the offense struggled to consistently protect backup quarterback Andy Dalton behind a depleted offensive line. Dalton left the game with a concussion in the third quarter. Rookie Ben DiNucci was also sacked three times over the final quarter and a half.
But execution continues to be an issue. On defense, yet another busted play in the secondary led to a 52-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kyle Allen to wide receiver Terry McLaurin in the second quarter. Washington's offense also racked up 208 rushing yards against the Cowboys' 31st-ranked run defense.
"I don't think it's a communication issue, I think we've been communicating well. I think everybody just needs to do their job on every single play," linebacker Leighton Vander Esch said. "I think it comes down to that. Just focusing in, relaxing, and doing your job every play."
McCarthy said he still believes the players are responding to what they're being asked to do.
"Definitely. I can only tell you what goes on every day as far as the preparation, the daily communication and interaction with the players throughout the program," he said. "We knew there would be adjustments throughout as a football team. We've been hit with a number of challenges that we are just not pushing through right now. So, we need to continue to work and I believe we'll push through the other end."
But time is starting to tick away on the season.
"The only ones who are going to get us out of the hole are us as a football team," McCarthy said. "We've got to be able to keep playing, keep playing to win, not playing to not make mistakes. I felt like I saw some of that today.
"We're not cutting it loose. We look like we're holding back at certain points. So, we've got to execute better obviously. We knew we needed to play the game a certain way today and we did not get that done."