JACKSONVILLE – The Cowboys had the Jacksonville Jaguars right where they wanted a 5-8 team in the third quarter, leading 27-10.
Up 17, with 5:31 to go in a quarter the Cowboys have previously dominated over 13 games, outscoring their opponents 83-41, and having whipped the overabundance of Cowboys fans inundating TIAA Bank Stadium for the Jaguars' first sellout of the season with 69,050 packed in, these very Cowboys were letting the folks in teal realize this biggest game their team's had in five years wasn't going to turn out well.
Then came, as Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott called it, "Our lull."
Was more like an electrical blackout, an energized young Jaguars team rising from the ashes, knowing their chances at that point of catching Tennessee for first place in the AFC South were seeming slim and bordering on none, trailing a powerful Cowboys team.
And then it happened, as if there was a powerful flip of the switch. The Jaguars outscored Dallas from that point on an unconceivable 30-7 to shock the Cowboys – to the delight of the Eagles too – and send shockwaves throughout the NFL with a 40-34 overtime victory.
All leaving Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy and his now 10-4 troops stunned, still needing that 11th victory to clinch a playoff spot.
"At the end of the day, they made one more play than we did," said Cowboys Pro Bowl guard Zak Martin in a locker room so quiet you could hear a pin drop.
Now, that one more play came in overtime with 7:04 remaining, the Cowboys facing a third-and-7 at their own 47-yard line. With Prescott rolling to his left under pressure, his pass bounced off the hands of Noah Brown and into the awaiting hands of Jacksonville safety Rayshawn Jenkins at the Jaguars' 48. Jenkins then raced untouched for 52 yards in mere seconds for the crowning blow, the overtime-ending touchdown sending the Cowboys home wondering what in the heck happened.
"Helluva football game, but we came out on the short end," McCarthy said.
Very short, and when the Cowboys look back, knowing they needed a knockout punch, they allowed the momentum to change and let the spunky Jaguars back in the game. Mostly thanks to Jacksonville's three biggest plays of the game coming in the third quarter, passes of 59 and 30 yards and a Jamal Agnew end-around for 30 more.
So, start with the Cowboys in the third quarter settling for two field goals, Brett Maher hitting from 24 yards out after they were stymied after sitting second-and-2 from the Jaguars' 4-yard line, and then from 53 yards after DaRon Bland's interception set up the Cowboys at the Jacksonville 42 when the Jaguars' chin had been exposed for a knockout.
Instead, here came Jacksonville, a team that had won three of its last five games with quarterback Trevor Lawrence playing like the No. 1 draft choice he was in 2021.
Lawrence, on the run, hits Zay Jones three plays later for a layup 59-yard touchdown when Kelvin Joseph bit heavily on Jones' stop and there was no way for him to recover when Jones instead went deep. The roof began to sag.
On the ensuing kickoff, KaVontae Turpin could take the short kick back just 15 yards to the 16, and suddenly the Jacksonville folks woke up. The place got loud. Real loud. First, Dak gets sacked, minus-eight yards. Next play, again under pressure and scrambling to his right, Dak tries to hit an open Dalton Schultz. But as he was throwing, he gets tugged from behind and the ball sails over his tight end's head into the awaiting arms of Jenkins, returning 11 yards to the Cowboys' 39.
"The lull there in the second half gave them a chance with my turnovers," said Prescott, admitting he probably should have just taken the sack on that play and lived to play another down.
With the place in a frenzy, the Jaguars down just 27-17, four plays later, the first the 30-yard Agnew run, Lawrence, who finished with 318 yards passing and four touchdowns, hits Marvin Jones for a 10-yard touchdown pass.
Now 27-24. Game on.
Then, in a third quarter that Dallas was outscored 14-6, and on the final two plays of that turnaround quarter, the Cowboys, from their own 19-yard line after another short kick and nowhere for Turpin to run on the return, gained just three yards, setting up the Jaguars to send the Cowboys home with their second OT loss of the season in shocking fashion.
A third quarter to forget.
"Got to work for what you want for four quarters," DeMarcus Lawrence said.
Yep, all four quarters. And sometimes, overtime too.