Offense Revival May Start With 'Protecting No. 4'

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SEATTLE – Through three games, the Cowboys are averaging 13.7 points – 31st out of 32 NFL teams.

There's rarely one single issue when the offense struggles like it has for large stretches so far this season. Penalties, minus plays, missed throws, drops leading to interceptions – they all contributed to Sunday's 24-13 loss to the Seahawks.

The Cowboys' proud offensive line points at itself, too.

"It starts up front protecting No. 4 and executing," All-Pro guard Zack Martin said after the game. "We've got to do a better job giving him time to let routes develop to get the ball downfield, and we just haven't done it this year."

In the Cowboys' lone win so far – Week 2 against the Giants – the offensive line did a solid job protecting Prescott. The two losses, not nearly as much. Prescott was sacked six times by Carolina in the season opener. Seattle sacked him five times Sunday and hit 10 times.

Those 11 total sacks in three games are almost halfway to Prescott's season sack total two years ago (23), when he won Offensive Rookie of the Year and led the Cowboys to the NFC's best record.

The Cowboys did have success running the ball against Seattle. Ezekiel Elliott averaged 7.9 yards per carry, the second-highest single-game average of his career. Compared to the season-opening loss at Carolina, the offense did a better job of getting themselves in manageable down-and-distance situations.

It's not enough, according to Martin.

"We can run the ball all we want, but if we can't protect the quarterback and let him have time to make plays then we're not going to be a very good offense," he said. "We've got to be our biggest critics, figure out what's going wrong and fix it."

This year's line has two new starters – second-round draft pick Connor Williams is the new left guard, and Joe Looney is filling in at center for Pro Bowler Travis Frederick (illness) – but Seattle's pressure on Prescott came from different places on Sunday.

Prescott, as he's done throughout his career, only points the finger at himself.

"Anytime that I get hit or pressured, I'm not thinking it's the line," he said. "In the past, sometimes it's been self-pressured. So before I say it's this or that, I've got to watch the film, simple as that.

"But they're fighting their tail off up front, and I'm going to help them out when I can. That's just something we're going to grow together with."

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