EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – There's a dozen or more reasons the Cowboys lost their third-straight game on Sunday, but the two moments that'll get dissected the most revolve around Jason Witten.
With Amari Cooper sidelined by a quad injury, Witten was arguably the most consistent part of the Cowboys' passing attack – so much so that Dak Prescott looked for him with everything on the line.
Having already cut the Jets' lead to 24-22 with a four-yard rushing touchdown, Prescott lined up in an empty set for the two-point conversion. Whether or not Witten was his preferred read is a bit of a moot point, because Jamal Adams was on top of him immediately with a blitz right down the middle.
"It's an all-out coverage blitz, so they're going to play pretty aggressive," Witten said. "Dak tried to hang in there as long as he can, like he always does."
The ball came out quick and low, skipping near Witten's feet for the game-deciding incompletion. There were some who thought Witten dealt with some illegal contact before the throw, but he wasn't buying it.
"It's bang-bang," he said. "I don't know if you're going to get that call in that situation."
Then, there was the opening drive of the third quarter. Having played a miserable first half, the Cowboys marched down to the Jets' 4-yard on a methodical, nine-play drive. Facing a 3rd-and-4, Witten broke into the flat to Prescott's right and took an easy throw to the pylon for a touchdown.
It was actually a similar concept to the route that got Witten his second touchdown of the season against Washington – except this time it didn't count, as Cedrick Wilson was flagged for running a pick to throw the Jets' coverage out of position.
"I didn't see it. Ced was pretty confident, he felt like the guy grabbed him," Witten said. "I'd have to watch it on tape. You really never want to pick. That's an emphasis in the league. It's really more like he's running a route inside and releasing."
Regardless of whether or not it was a good call, it bumped the Cowboys back 10 yards, where they eventually settled for the third of Brett Maher's field goal. A deficit that could have been cut to eight points instead sat at 12.
None of this is to make excuses for the Cowboys' loss to an 0-4 team. There were defensive lapses, mental mistakes, penalties and coaching decisions aplenty. But it is another potent reminder of the countless small swings that can influence the outcome of a game.
And it further emphasizes that the Cowboys have to improve at winning those.
"We fought hard to get back in that game and give ourselves a chance, but in this league it's hard to come back when you're down like that," Witten said.
Add the Pro Bowl tight end to the long list of players who hasn't lost confidence, though. Three-straight setbacks is a tough pill to swallow, but Witten said the Cowboys have the right character to sort it out.
"We know what this offense is capable of doing. We had three good games to start the season and we've had three rough ones," he said. "I believe in this team whole heartedly, I believe it's the right makeup of guys. It's just that every week is a battle in this league, it really is. You've got to be ready to execute."