A defense that allowed just three points in Week 1 was shredded by Trevor Siemian, who became the first quarterback to throw four touchdown passes against Dallas since 2013.
An offense that made its identity on a running game by Ezekiel Elliott was stoned by a defense even before the score got so out of whack the Cowboys had to throw it more.
Dak Prescott, who never gets flustered, got flustered in losing his first road game against a nondivision team in his short career.
The hour-plus weather delay in the first quarter only delayed the inevitable.
Elliott entered the game with a chance of setting an NFL record for most consecutive games with at least 80 yards rushing at 16. He left Denver with 8 yards on nine carries, easily the lowest mark of his brief career. Elliott’s previous low was 51 yards in last year’s season opener. His previous low-carry total was 12 against the Detroit Lions in Week 16.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, all 8 of Elliott’s yards were gained after first contact. There was nowhere to run.
The Cowboys, however, took Elliott out of the game early by calling passes on 10 of their first 15 plays.
“There were some things we thought they were doing to keep Zeke pinned up and obviously that hurt us in play-action passes and all of that,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones sad. “It’s important for us to get it together and go and so, you know, I was surprised frankly that even though we had all the respect in the world for their defense, I was surprised how they bottled us with Zeke as well as the throws that we had to make. … I will state: That was not us as a team. But that might be Denver. My hat’s off to them.”
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Prescott was 0-for-3 on play-action passes in the game.
Prescott, who needed both ankles taped after a 7-yard scramble because of an awkward takedown at the end of the first quarter, threw two touchdown passes and was intercepted once, but Dez Bryant saved two turnovers by turning into a defensive back.
Prescott attempted a career-high 50 passes and completed 30 for just 238 yards, but on his final attempt he was picked off by Aqib Talib, who returned the turnover 103 yards for the touchdown that led to the third-worst loss of the Jason Garrett era.
"If I make more plays we give ourselves a chance in that game," Prescott said. "I simply didn't make the plays. There's no excuse for it and playing like that, you won't win a game. It doesn't matter who you play."
Defensively, the Cowboys entered the game without Orlando Scandrick because of a broken hand, and by the second quarter they were without cornerbacks Nolan Carroll (concussion) and Chidobe Awuzie (hamstring). They had two healthy corners in Anthony Brown and rookie Jourdan Lewis, who was playing his first game.
Siemian beat Lewis, who had four full practices all summer, for two of his touchdown passes. The last quarterback to throw four touchdown passes in a game against the Cowboys was Green Bay’s Matt Flynn on Dec. 15, 2013.
The Cowboys did not allow a 100-yard rusher last season, but C.J. Anderson became the first back to go for 100 yards against Dallas since current Cowboy Alfred Morris in the 2015 season finale when he played for the Washington Redskins.
After giving up 233 yards and 13 first downs against the Giants in four quarters, the Cowboys allowed 246 yards and 17 first downs in the first half Sunday. The Broncos converted on all eight of their third-down opportunities in the first half.
The good news for the Cowboys is they will get an extra day to prepare for their next game, Sept. 25 at the Arizona Cardinals.
Prepare or recover, however you want to look at it.