ARLINGTON, Texas – On the second play from scrimmage, Amari Cooper caught his first pass with the Dallas Cowboys for an 11-yard gain, leading the fans to yell, “Coooooop.” By the end of the third quarter, the "Coooop" had turned to boos.
The Cowboys are only at the midway point of the season, but Monday’s 28-14 loss to the Tennessee Titans seemed crushing.
The Cowboys felt energized by the trade with the Oakland Raiders for Cooper as well as the change from Paul Alexander to Marc Colombo at offensive line coach. Coming off the bye week, they felt like they had a solid week of preparation with quarterback Dak Prescott calling it “chippy,” but in a good way.
Jason Garrett and Dak Prescott can't afford another non-playoff season if they want to stay in Dallas. AP Photo/Ron Jenkins
To come up empty at AT&T Stadium, where they had been perfect thus far this season, can only be viewed as deflating. With eight games left the Cowboys still have a mathematical chance to win the NFC East or earn a wild-card bid, but all of their faults were on display against the Titans.
On the Cowboys’ third possession, Prescott forced a pass to a double-covered Cooper in the end zone from the Tennessee 6-yard line on second down. Instead of another chance on third down or a chip-shot field goal, Prescott went to his new weapon haphazardly and was intercepted.
On the Cowboys’ first possession of the second half, Prescott was sacked by Jayon Brown and fumbled. Wesley Woodyard recovered and like the Titans did after Prescott’s first turnover, they turned it into a touchdown for a 21-14 lead.
It was the fourth lost fumble Prescott has had in eight games. He had three lost fumbles last season and four as a rookie.
A Cowboys defense that started fast wilted. They allowed touchdown drives of 80 and 69 yards in the first half and saw Marcus Mariota do to them what the Cowboys want Prescott to do. The Titans converted 11 of 14 third-down tries. Mariota was methodical in the passing game (21 of 29, 240 yards, two touchdowns) and ended the Cowboys’ chances with a 9-yard touchdown run with 4:38 to play.
There is only a one-game difference between 3-5 and 4-4, but mentally those records are miles apart.
With road games coming up against the Philadelphia Eagles, who are coming off their bye week, and the Atlanta Falcons, who have won three games in a row, the Cowboys find themselves with their season the line. Oh, the Cowboys are winless away from home, matching the loss total (four) they had away from home in Prescott’s first two seasons as the starter.
For Prescott and Jason Garrett, more than the season might be on the line. Their futures -- short- and long-term -- are on the line.