The Cowboys can’t get out of their own way — and it doesn’t seem to matter. Yet


From the start, it looked like it would be a frustrating game to evaluate, and the Cowboys were only too happy to make that thought a reality.

It was a strange place to be: on the road, in the rain against a team that (surprisingly) had even less to play for than they did. Despite the Tennessee Titans’ inferior record, the do-or-die nature of their Week 18 game in Jacksonville led them to sit several of their starters. As a result, a 27-13 victory ended up being far more of an upset than they would have preferred, not that they would return it. “A win is a win, any day of the week,” Dak Prescott said.

The reasoning should be obvious, because it has become a familiar refrain. For starters, they continue to struggle with turnovers, a problem that’s getting harder to explain and seemingly even harder to stop.

It looked exactly like you’d expect to see most other Cowboy games. A perfect pass from Dak Prescott was juggled and popped up by the opposing defense for an interception. Moments later, Kevin Byard made a questionable decision from Dak Prescott. “One was a straw, one was a negative decision,” he echoed. Mike McCarthy, Cowboys head coach.

Throw in a botched punt and the Cowboys had three turnovers in one quarter of football.

“I don’t like them,” McCarthy said. “Unfortunately, you go through ups and downs in this league. Whether we don’t get any style points, that’s fine. We’re still 12 wins away.”

You can’t argue with the result, even if the bugs pause. For those keeping score at home, Dallas has committed 12 turnovers in the last six games. They have turned the ball over multiple times in three of their last four games. It’s ironic to note that their cleanest game in that regard, last week’s 40-34 win against Philadelphia, saw Prescott throw a pick-six that put them in an early 10-0 hole.

Surprisingly, the problem hasn’t hurt them as much as you might expect. It’s true that turnovers played a big role in the road losses in Green Bay and Jacksonville. However, the Cowboys have only been held under 27 points once since Prescott’s return. They are averaging 35 points per game over the last 10, and are 8-2 over that same stretch.

It played out again Thursday night as they bounced back from that sloppy second quarter to outscore the Titans 17-7 down the stretch.

“This is a resilient team,” Prescott said. “Coach McCarthy made that our mantra at the beginning of the year. Honestly, just take the pain we had from last year and use it to move forward this year.”

Does any of this make you, the picky fan, feel better? Probably not. Those kinds of mistakes often extend into the postseason, and it’s hard to imagine them beating an NFC contender with that style of play.

Then there’s the injury factor. The Cowboys seemed to escape this evening with little real trouble, but the most notable loss of the night could have serious ramifications. Tyler Biadasz left the game late in the third quarter with an apparent ankle injury. The issue forced a serious shuffling of the line as Connor McGovern moved from left tackle to center, with Jason Peters entering the game at left tackle and Tyler Smith switching to left guard.

Fortunately, the Cowboys are in an advantageous situation. While there’s still little hope of stealing the division title from Philadelphia, the Cowboys’ Week 18 matchup at Washington isn’t a do-or-die scenario, given that their playoff spot is secure. Still, with the defensive losses of this group on display on a weekly basis, it’s puzzling to imagine facing a playoff run with an offensive line that isn’t as healthy as it could be. At this point, it’s worth remembering that the Cowboys rolled up 361 yards, 27 points and converted 62 percent of their third downs against a team that could win the AFC South next weekend.

This is the perplexing conundrum in which the Cowboys find themselves. Thursday night’s road win boosted their record to 12-4. They have now achieved 12 consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 1994-95, when they were the undisputed masters of the sport.

Meanwhile, last year’s 12-win season evaporated in the first round of the playoffs. As a franchise, they haven’t put together a true playoff run since that 1995 season, a fact that boggles the mind after any interception or sprained ankle. is it fair Probably not. That doesn’t make it any less true, and that doesn’t mean it’s going to change until the Cowboys make it happen. It’s just another part of the allure of playing for America’s team — a challenge Prescott and his teammates know all too well and could embrace.

“When you play for this organization, there’s a lot of noise and a lot of things around that don’t really matter when it comes to winning football games,” Prescott said. “So the brotherhood and the culture that we’ve built is something that we have to lean on, something that we have to tap into and double down on. I think that’s what’s going to allow us to make this run.”

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David Helman covers the Dallas Cowboys for FOX Sports. He previously spent nine seasons covering the Cowboys for the team’s official website. In 2018, he won a regional Emmy for his role in the production of “Dak Prescott: A Family Reunion” about the quarterback’s time at Mississippi State. Follow him on Twitter @davidhelman_.


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