Dak Prescott isn't wearing rose-colored lenses, but he also doesn't own beer goggles. That is to say the Dallas Cowboys quarterback is simply calling it like he sees it, and what he sees right now is a contender stumbling, but not one that's in the corner being pummeled or laying lifeless on the canvas during a 10 count. With their 38-31 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 3, the Cowboys are now 1-2 and their losses have come by a combined 10 points, and they're scoring an average of 29.7 points per game in the process. They're also doing this despite the absence of starting tackles Tyron Smith and La'El Collins, along with starting tight end Blake Jarwin.
The problem is they're allowing an average of 32.2 points each week -- the most of any Cowboys defense in franchise history through three weeks of football -- and much like a rusty butterknife on a felled redwood, that's not going to cut it. Their Sunday clash with the Seahawks proved even when they make mistakes and are ravaged by injury, they can push an NFC frontrunner into the ropes and deliver crushing blows, but until the defense figures itself out and the offense stops making errors that forces said defense to take the field more often -- the struggles might continue.
To that point, Prescott (who became only the second player in NFL history to throw for more than 450 yards in back-to-back games) says the 1-2 start has nothing to do with ability, and everything to do with execution.
"Continuously, looking at it the last three weeks, we're only stopping ourselves," he told media following the close loss at CenturyLink Field, via the team's website. "We have to get out of our own way, be cleaner with the ball, play smarter football and find a way to start faster. Our coaches and these players are going to go back and figure out a way to get this thing right and clean it up."
The loss of Leighton Vander Esch to a fractured collarbone looms large for the defense, as does injury to starting cornerbacks Anthony Brown and Chidobe Awuzie that forced them to join Vander Esch on injured reserve. Rookie second-round pick Trevon Diggs joins defensive end Aldon Smith as beaming bright spots on the defense -- along with impressive play by backup linebacker Joe Thomas and a fast rising Trysten Hill -- but there is still much to be figured out on that side of the ball. The inability to contain Tyler Lockett was eerily similar to the inability handcuff Calvin Ridley a week prior, and it took a Herculean effort by Prescott to overcome both that and the fact the Cowboys fumbled four times in the first quarter against Atlanta.
Prescott himself had three turnovers in Week 3 and while only one of them were truly accountable to him -- the first interception thrown behind Amari Cooper that landed in the hands of Shaquill Griffin -- the fact remains Seattle nabbed extra possessions because of them. More damning errors came by way of the special teams unit, when Tony Pollard muffed a punt on the 1-yard line that led to a safety and Greg Zuerlein missing two extra point attempts (the second having been blocked).
That's a total of four points that never landed, and when you consider the Cowboys lost by seven, a three-point game on the final drive would've had them playing for field goal position and not a touchdown.
But because the latter was the scenario, the Seahawks simply played soft coverage to avoid giving up the mandatory TD play, which ultimately led to the second Prescott interception in the end zone that nailed the Cowboys coffin closed. From special teams errors that ultimately skewed how the final drive of the game looked, to the secondary's inability to both cover -- Diggs notwithstanding -- to an incessant amount of drive-extending penalties that gifted the Seahawks and Russell Wilson drool-worthy field position, the list of mistakes from Week 3 adds to those from the two weeks prior to make for a very clear picture in Dallas:
They truly are beating themselves so far, and that's as maddening for them as it is fuel for optimism in a weak NFC East.
"I know we will [get better]," said Prescott of the current state of affairs. "We'll just go back this week, have some tough practices, get back on to the details and we'll change this thing around. We have a long way to go, and we're just 1-2."