ARLINGTON, Texas -- Making excuses will get the Dallas Cowboys nowhere going forward, and so it's a good thing for the club that no one is making any after being humiliated at AT&T Stadium in Week 9 by the Denver Broncos. The fight slowly got more and more out of hand as the Cowboys could do no right, with the Broncos eventually taking a 30-0 lead in the fourth quarter before scaling back and seeing the Cowboys score 16 meaningless points.
The return of Dak Prescott from a calf strain was riddled with rust, drops by receivers, critical penalties (one that negated an interception) and even a rare NFL rule made an appearance in the ugliest game of the year for Dallas. It was a shellacking by the Broncos from top to bottom, and head coach Mike McCarthy readily confesses they brought their "F" game to the stadium on Sunday.
"First, I think you have to give Denver credit," McCarthy told media after the loss. "They came in there, and they had tremendous adversity they faced coming into this game. Had concern Wednesday, as far as how we've come off some successful weeks and the message was, 'Don't take the cheese.' And frankly we were outcoached, we were outplayed, all the way through."
Things weren't bad the entire time for the Cowboys though, having seen running back Tony Pollard rattle off a 54-yard kick return to open the game. But on that very drive, a failed fourth-and-1 served early notice that the Cowboys offense wouldn't have their way with the Broncos defense -- despite Bradley Chubb being on injured reserve and Von Miller having been traded away -- with Denver mounting yet another stop on fourth-and-1 on Dallas' very next drive.
Not much went right after that for the Cowboys, who allowed the Broncos to possess the ball for more than 41 football minutes in a 60-minute contest, rack up 407 total yards of offense and convert on eight of their 15 third down attempts. The usually takeaway-talented Cowboys also gave up two but forced none, in a game McCarthy will need to burn into the team's collective memory if they're to do as Prescott predicts and never suffer this feeling again.
"This is the first time I've felt clearly our energy didn't exceed our opponent, and that's disappointing," said McCarthy. "They came in aggressively. If you look at the way their defense played us form the start, they challenged our receivers, they challenged the box, they clearly were going to take away the run and put it on the passing game, and we didn't respond to that. Their run offense was significant, particularly runs after contact. These are basics, things I felt like we were improving on.
"Just sitting in there, before I came in here, 'Why does that happen to your team'? Those are things that you're always focused on, but maybe I've overcoached the penalties this week, because we had so many. We all know where our numbers are. But we just weren't the more physical team today. I thought it showed up and I give them a lot of credit."
The Cowboys fall to a still impressive 6-2 on the season and thanks to league-wide upsets that include losses by the Green Bay Packers and the Los Angeles Rams, they didn't lose any ground in the NFC standings. That's a dodged bullet for sure, and the Cowboys would rather have this happen in early November versus late December or beyond, but if they fail to learn the lessons taught on Sunday, well, you know how the saying goes.
Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.