LANDOVER, Md. – It was an honest question, but a painfully obvious answer.
In the wake of another disappointing road loss, Dak Prescott was asked, simply enough: can you pinpoint the problem with a struggling Dallas offense?
Prescott could only laugh ruefully.
"If I could, I think we'd have it cleaned up and we'd be moving forward easily. So no, I can't," he said.
There was some slight variation to the plot Sunday at FedEx Field, albeit with the same result. Prescott actually had his best outing as a passer this season and one of the 10 highest passing totals of his career, completing 22 balls for 273 yards and a touchdown.
Prescott also got his receivers more involved than he has in quite some time. Cole Beasley picked up where he left off last week with seven catches for 56 yards, while Allen Hurns had his best day as a Dallas Cowboy with 74 yards.
That doesn't even include Michael Gallup, who enjoyed a bit of the breakout performance people have been waiting for, catching three passes for 81 yards – including a 49-yard touchdown on a well-executed double-move.
"We've just gotten better at that each game, and it's about continuing to improve moving forward," Prescott said.
Of course, all of that happy information doesn't do justice to the end result.
The Cowboys' office once again sputtered. Their vaunted run game was stymied for just 74 total yards, with Ezekiel Elliott averaging just 2.3 yards per rush.
The penalties reared their heads again, as the offensive line was flagged four times on the day – three holding calls and one chop block. The miscues threw off four different drives on a day when the offense managed just 324 total yards and converted just 5-of-14 third downs.
"I think we did a decent job, a fine job of communicating, but we just were stepping on our own foot," Prescott said. "It had nothing to do with being on the road, we were just getting penalties – self-inflicted errors that we weren't giving ourselves a chance."
Speaking of self-inflicted errors, one of those penalties set up the worst one of all. After a Connor Williams holding penalty backed the Cowboys up to their own 10-yard line, Prescott was stripped while trying to avoid a sack from Ryan Kerrigan.
Not only did Kerrigan get the sack, but the resulting fumble was scooped and scored by Preston Smith to put the Cowboys in a 20-10 hole halfway through the fourth quarter.
'"It was one of those deals, trying not to make a bad play and ended up making it worse," Prescott said. "Just got to be cleaner there and throw the ball away when I see him in my face."
It's an odd detail of the loss that Prescott, who helped carry the Cowboys within a missed field goal of overtime, was also one of the day's biggest culprits.
His performance was incredibly gutsy, if not always clean. On top of the 273 passing yards, he managed six carries for 33 yards and a touchdown.
In the first quarter, he scrambled in an attempt to convert a 3rd-and-5 and took a hard shot from Greg Stroman, prompting team doctors to evaluate him for a concussion.
"I've been hit many times, and it was just a good, solid hit but I was fine. I obviously got checked for all that," he said.
Later, in the fourth quarter, he gave the Cowboys new life when he fought his way into the end zone on a one-yard touchdown that cut the score to 20-17.
All of that said, turnovers loom large, and Prescott committed two in a three-point loss. On top of that strip-sack, he also fumbled on a quarterback sneak that would have given the Cowboys a first down at midfield – if not for a head's up play from Washington safety D.J. Swearinger.
"I've got to do a better job taking care of the ball, knowing a lot of hands and a lot of people are coming around right there," Prescott said. "I've got to put two hands on it and hold it tight."
Instead, the ball slipped away – and another opportunity at a win, along with it. And while Prescott might not have any answers heading into the bye week, it'll be on him and the rest of his teammates to find them.
"That's something we're going to take into this bye week and try to dive into and figure out – figure out exactly what it is so we can come back out of this bye week being the best team that we know we can be," he said.