CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A troubling trend from last season continued in Sunday's opener against the Carolina Panthers.
The Cowboys couldn't crack double digits in points.
It happened four times in the final eight games of 2017, including three straight weeks without running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Elliott was on the field Sunday at Bank of America Stadium, but the Cowboys couldn't get him involved nearly as much as they'd normally like. He had only 15 carries for 69 yards and a touchdown, the offense's only points in a sloppy 16-8 loss.
The revamped Dallas offense – featuring two new starters on the offensive line, four new receivers and a new tight end rotation – struggled to find any rhythm in the passing game until the second half.
Counting the two preseason games in which Prescott played, this was the first time all six of his receivers were available at once.
After the game, Prescott (19-of-29, 170 yards) didn't use that as justification for the offense's struggles.
"I'm not making any excuses," he said. "We've had a lot of time in training camp. We had a lot of time this week in preparing. We needed to come out and be sharp and we weren't as sharp as we needed to be. We put ourselves in a hole."
The offense punted on all five possessions in the first half and went 0-of-5 on third down. Due to a combination of penalties, sacks and minus plays, Prescott faced third-and-26, third-and-12, third-and-10, third-and-11, third-and-7.
Not exactly ideal down and distance. Carolina took a 10-0 halftime lead and never trailed in the game, even though Dallas made things interesting in the fourth quarter by making it a one-score game with an Elliott touchdown and a Prescott two-point conversion.
"Anytime you're in third and long, you can look across the league -- the statistics show that it is hard to convert," receiver Allen Hurns said. "The main thing for us is we've got to get into third and manageable."
Said Elliott: "We put our defense in a bad situation. We got them on the field too long. We couldn't get first downs. We couldn't keep our drives going."
Prescott was sacked six times in the game. He also missed open throws at times, including a wide-open Blake Jarwin that would have put the offense deep in Carolina territory late in the second quarter.
The second half resembled the Prescott-Elliott Era offense at its best. Elliott ran for 51 yards and a score and Prescott subsequently found more balance in the passing game, throwing for six first downs. Cole Beasley, one of only two wideouts back from last year's team, led all receivers with seven catches for 73 yards.
"We found some success," Prescott said. "We were able to spread them out and move the ball and take advantage of some matchups outside within the passing game.
"We fought. I think there's a lot of good that we can learn from this game and a lot of good we'll take from this moving forward."
But too late getting moving on this particular Sunday.