Cowboys' offense running to a stand still without Ezekiel Elliott

RLINGTON, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys knew life was going to be difficult without Ezekiel Elliott. They didn’t know it was going to be impossible.

For the first time in franchise history, the Cowboys have failed to score at least 10 points in three straight games. In the last three games with Elliott, the Cowboys scored 101 points in wins against the San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins and Kansas City Chiefs.

In their past three games they have scored 22 points.

The most recent team with that kind of disparity was the 1998 Green Bay Packers, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.

“I’m surprised,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “We all know it shouldn’t be. Zeke’s important. Zeke makes it better, but to a man around here we’d all say it shouldn’t be to this degree at all. So we’ve got to adjust again.”

But how? Where? And to what?

The Cowboys have gone three straight games without more than 250 yards on offense. They had just two games with fewer than 277 yards offense in the first eight games with Elliott.

A year ago Dak Prescott put up numbers that were better than or rivaled what Ben Roethlisberger did as a rookie in 2004. Now he is in the category with Zach Mettenberger.

According to Elias research, Prescott is one of four quarterbacks in the past 10 years to start three straight games and fail to score more than 10 points in a game. The others are JaMarcus Russell, Brady Quinn and Mettenberger.

“We’re in a funk or whatever you want to call it,” Prescott said. “It’s not fun to be in. We just have to figure ways to get out of it, me individually and this offense collectively.”

The run game has not been as prolific as it was with Elliott, but it has not been terrible. The Cowboys are averaging 99 yards a game on the ground without Elliott.

The passing game is a mess. In the two games without Tyron Smith, the issue was pass protection. With Smith back in the lineup, Prescott was sacked just twice, but he threw for just 179 yards on 20-of-27 passing. He was intercepted twice, including one that was returned 90 yards for a touchdown.

On the season, Prescott has been intercepted nine times. In the past two games, he has more interceptions (five) than he had all of 2016. He also lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by the Philadelphia Eagles.

“I don’t know how many it is, five or six turnovers in two games?” Prescott said. “I’ve gone seasons without that many. It’s definitely frustrating.”

Prescott said there are throws to be made, but there did not look to be many clean looks for him to make big plays. Terrance Williams had a 38-yard catch in the fourth quarter, but that was the only pass play of more than 20 yards in the game. In the loss to the Eagles, the Cowboys didn’t have any pass plays of 20 yards or more.

Philip Rivers had eight pass plays Sunday of more than 20 yards on his way to 434 yards and three touchdowns. He was able to find holes in a Dallas defense thanks to the design of pass plays. Nineteen of Prescott’s 20 completions gained 141 yards, or 4 yards fewer than what Rivers had in the first quarter.

“I think more than anything it was just the entire offense,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We weren’t able to sustain things throughout the ballgame. We ran the ball fairly well early on in the game. We got some success but we weren’t able to convert those third downs to keep those drives alive. Everybody’s got a piece of it. It starts up front, but certainly as a coaching staff we’re always looking at ourselves and what our role is in it. Offensively the performance wasn’t up to par. It wasn’t enough to match what they were doing on their side of the ball.”

While some want to question Prescott, Jones is not abandoning him in this difficult time.

“He’s our future,” Jones said. “And I feel strongly about it. What I mean is I saw nothing today, last week or the week before that that compromised my thought about his future.”