Cowboys' road woes continue in cruelest of ways with loss to Redskins

LANDOVER, Md. -- The Cowboys were as close as a ball bouncing their way off an upright from sending Sunday's game into overtime, but Brett Maher's miss seemed fitting considering Dallas' struggles on the road.

The Cowboys left FedEx Field like they did their first three road games: with a disheartening 20-17 loss to the Washington Redskins when Maher’s 52-yard attempt hit the left upright as time expired.

The Cowboys’ four road losses in 2018 match the total of road losses they had in Dak Prescott’s first two seasons.

Prescott almost willed the Cowboys to their second overtime game in three weeks with a 12-play, 79-yard drive that ended with his 1-yard touchdown run, and he and Cole Beasley had the Cowboys in position to tie it up, but Maher’s kick was off after a false-start penalty pushed the attempt back 5 yards.

But don’t turn the near-heroics into a narrative that the offense found something away from home for the first time this season.

A week after scoring 40 points, the Cowboys struggled to score 17.

Prescott doesn’t have an answer as to why the Cowboys are so inconsistent.

“If I could, I think we would have it cleaned up and we’d be moving forward easily, so, no, I can’t," Prescott said. “We’re going to take this bye week and try to dive into and figure out exactly what it is so we can come back out of this bye week being the best team that we know we can be.”

If anything was emblematic of the Cowboys’ day, it was what led to Preston Smith’s touchdown with 4 minutes, 55 seconds to play that iced the Cowboys’ loss.

On third-and-4, Prescott found Beasley for a 16-yard gain only to see that negated by a holding penalty on rookie left guard Connor Williams, who all but tackled Jonathan Allen to draw the flag.

On third-and-14 from the Dallas 10, Prescott held the ball too long as Ryan Kerrigan delayed his pass rush, sacked the quarterback and poked the ball free for Smith to scoop up for the touchdown for a 20-10 Washington lead.

In a breath, Dallas went from a potential comeback victory to a 3-4 record and the same offensive questions that have plagued the Cowboys all season away from home.

"We gotta help this defense out,” Ezekiel Elliott said. “This defense is playing as good as any other defense in the league, probably playing as the best defense in the league and we aren't giving them any help on the road. And we gotta do that. We gotta figure that out as an offense, and we'll be fine."

Last Thursday, the Cowboys offense held a meeting to hash out what Prescott called “the elephant in the room.” In the first three road games, the Cowboys scored three touchdowns in 36 possessions. They converted 9 of 38 third-down chances.

Against the Redskins, the Cowboys scored two touchdowns, including a 49-yard scoring pass to rookie Michael Gallup in the second quarter, and converted just 5 of 14 third-down chances.

The running game provided little help, with Elliott picking up just 33 yards and not having one carry of more than 6 yards. Left tackle Tyron Smith was beaten often and was flagged for a holding penalty on the first drive. Right tackle La'el Collins was beaten by Kerrigan for a sack and had a penalty. Williams struggled with the size of Allen for a good chunk of the game. Right guard Zack Martin played the second half with his knee heavily taped.

The passing game showed some promise with Gallup’s touchdown catch in the first half, but in the second half the Cowboys did not press the ball down the field and the pass protection broke down. Prescott finished with 273 yards, the first time he had more than 200 yards passing on the road in regulation this season. He had 208 yards in the overtime loss to the Houston Texans.

But none of it was good enough.

Now the Cowboys have a bye week to rest and somehow figure out how to do anything away from AT&T Stadium. The good news is they don’t go on the road again until Nov. 11. The bad news is that it will be at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field, where they scored just six points in a meaningless Week 17 win last season during which the Eagles rested most of their starters.