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NFL power rankings 7.0: Cowboys come crashing down and there’s a new number one
SportsPulse: The Cowboys are currently a bottom five team and we have a new number one after the Green Bay Packers got throttled by Tampa Bay. Mackenzie Salmon reveals our biggest risers and fallers in this week’s power rankings.
Yet again, on Monday night against the Cardinals, the Cowboys found themselves in a deep hole. The scenery was familiar to this year’s team.
But this time was different.
No more was this the team that rallied from a 20-point deficit against the Falcons to escape with a 40-39 win. Nor was this the team that trailed by 15 in Seattle in the third quarter yet managed to lead briefly in the fourth before falling short in the final minutes. This wasn’t the team that scored 24 unanswered fourth-quarter points against the Cleveland Browns.
This team no longer has Dak Prescott.
“That was the pretty glaring difference out there last night,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Tuesday morning on Dallas radio station 105.3 The Fan, referencing his team’s 38-10 loss. “But it doesn’t have to stay that way.”
Prescott was far from perfect before he suffered a season-ending compound fracture and dislocation of his ankle in the third quarter of a Week 5 win over the Giants. He threw four interceptions and lost three fumbles in five weeks, an uncharacteristic trend of ball insecurity for a player who recorded a 23:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio as a rookie.
But Prescott threw for at least 450 yards three times in four-and-a-half games. He scored three rushing touchdowns in the second half against the Falcons en route to the win. The magic fell short at times, but tight end Dalton Schultz said and teammates echoed: With Prescott in the huddle, “we know we’re never out of the fight.”
Monday night, the Cowboys were out. They failed to score a touchdown until the final 3 minutes of the loss after scoring at least 30 points in their four previous games. Ezekiel Elliott fumbled twice in the first half, prompting a brief benching. Quarterback Andy Dalton threw two interceptions, with additional passes bouncing off Arizona defenders’ hands. The Cardinals scored 24 points off the four giveaways that further entrenched the Cowboys’ turnover rate as the worst of any team in the league. Dallas didn’t answer.
“We can get the most out of our team and it could be enough with Andy Dalton,” Jones said. “We didn’t last night. He contributed to the turnovers early. We had a play that could have been a turnover right off that would’ve been significant. But we can get there with Andy.
“He’s going to be challenged. I wish we had been in better shape protection-wise there, I wish we had a better run game and could get in better field position and better points in the game to work with.
“When Dak had those things, we did well. Dak was able to take us when we didn’t have those things and keep us in the ball game and get a couple wins.”
Dalton completed 34 of 54 passes for 266 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
“It’s one of those things where everybody has to look at themselves,” he said. “I’ve got to be better and I’ve got to do a better job out there of giving our guys chances.”
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Jones declined to criticize coaching as the Cowboys fell to 2-4 in the Mike McCarthy debut season, instead touting the coach’s “outstanding experience” rallying teams from adversity during 13 years in Green Bay. Jones also steered clear of bashing defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, whose unit has allowed a league-worst 36.3 points per game. Opponents have scored 84 of 218 points off turnovers. So “I’m OK with Mike Nolan,” the owner said. “I am.”
Jones didn’t celebrate the Cowboys’ place atop an abysmal NFC East.
“When you’re not playing any better than we are, it’s hard for me to basically look at the end game, which is to win the East, and get excited about the fact that we’re better than anybody,” Jones said. “‘We may be slow but we’re better than you’ syndrome.
“I’m not in the feel-good mood, frankly, that we’ve got manna from heaven being in the East.
“We’ve got to get better.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein