DALLAS — There is losing, and then there is getting embarrassed.
The Dallas Cowboys did the latter in a blowout loss to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. Don’t let the 49-38 final score fool you, the Cowboys were humiliated in their home stadium and only made it close when the Browns were willing to concede some points to let the clock run.
That’s the level of mortification the Cowboys have hit. The lowly Browns of recent history were practically letting Dallas score because they were ahead by so many points.
We’re now a quarter of the way through the season, and the Cowboys have looked like one of the worst teams in the NFL. If not for a miracle finish against the Falcons in Week 2, they would be winless.
The reality is the Cowboys aren’t a very good team right now, and they showed that against the Browns. Bad teams make bad mistakes, and the Cowboys made them in abundance.
The blunders began with the coaches inexplicably playing inferior players.
Brandon Knight is clearly a better right tackle than Terence Steele, but the coaches started Steele at the position. It took three possessions, two sacks and a forced turnover courtesy of Browns Pro Bowl defensive end Myles Garrett to demonstrate just how ill-advised a decision that was.
Steele was quickly benched, Knight came in, and while he didn’t surrender a sack over the course of the rest of the game, a lot of the damage was already done.
The coaches should never have put an undrafted free agent rookie like Steele in that situation, and it was a costly mistake.
The Dak Prescott strip sack fumble and subsequent Browns touchdown that followed was one of the biggest series of plays that determined the outcome of the game. The coaches will wear the blame for that personnel choice.
Dallas’ coaching staff was an issue in the loss, but the players weren’t far behind. The Cowboys, as it turns out, have one of the worst defenses in the league.
Mike Nolan’s unit gave up 508 yards, including a whopping 307 yards rushing. The Browns had three running backs average over 6.5 yards per carry on the Dallas defense, who wound up allowing three scores on the ground on Sunday.
Those putrid numbers came as the defense routinely missed tackles and the Dallas secondary once again allowed receivers to run free. Cleveland Wide Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. got behind the secondary for two easy touchdowns while he outran the entire defense on the game-clinching touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
We are now four weeks into the season, and the Cowboys have forced just two turnovers.
Ironically, that’s one less than the team coughed up against the Browns. You aren’t going to win many games turning the ball over, and two of the Cowboys' turnovers proved costly. Fumbles by Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott led to 14 points for the Browns during a 24-point second quarter by Cleveland.
That put the team in a bind once again during a tumultuous first half.
The script for the Cowboys hasn’t changed during the first four weeks. The team shoots itself in the foot with mistakes, gets behind by double digits, and is forced to scramble for an attempt at a massive comeback.
You aren’t going to win many games when your defense gives up big chunks of yards, can’t produce stops and gives up 49 points.
You aren’t going to win many games when you have three turnovers and don’t force any takeaways on defense.
You aren’t going to win many games when you allow 1st-and-20 attempts to be converted, twice, as the Dallas defense did.
You aren’t going to win many games when the coaching staff puts its players in unwinnable situations.
You aren’t going to win when you continue to make the same mistakes over and over again without learning from them. The opponents might have changed from week to week, but the Cowboys played another sloppy game.
It was an embarrassing performance and the entire organization is at fault.
Blame the front office for not acquiring the talent necessary to play better defense.
Blame the coaching staff for poor decisions with the players allocated to them.
Blame the players for not being good enough to execute better.
The Browns came into Dallas and made fools of the Cowboys. It was the ugliest showing of the season for a team that had already played poorly in its first three games.
Do you think the Cowboys are good enough to rebound from a bad loss against the Browns? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.