Cowboys have to 'figure out a way and clean it up' in a hurry

FRISCO, Texas -- There are times the Dallas Cowboys (1-2) look as if they could be one of the best teams in the NFL. And then there is the rest of the game.

Sunday's 38-31 loss to the Seattle Seahawks (3-0) was a perfect example.

In the second quarter, Dallas needed three plays to go 75 yards for Cedrick Wilson's 40-yard touchdown catch. When coaches are drawing up plays on a piece of paper, this is what it looks like. Wilson lined up on a linebacker and he simply runs away from him for the score.

But then Greg Zuerlein's extra point attempt was blocked by Tre Flowers.

In the third and fourth quarters, the Cowboys' defense made consecutive stops with a sack of Russell Wilson (Antwaun Woods) and a third-down pass breakup by rookie cornerback Trevon Diggs. But when it mattered most -- fourth-and-3 from the Dallas 47 and leading by a point -- the Cowboys could not sniff Wilson and he completed an 11-yard pass to Seahawks tight end Greg Olsen.

Two plays later, Wilson had his fifth touchdown of the game, a 29-yarder to DK Metcalf with 1:47 to play thanks in part to a defensive breakdown.

"Frustrating, but a learning experience," Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith said. "We know what we must do and -- for real -- it's time. It's time that we do what we know we need to do. There's no win here, finishing Week 3. New team coming together, developing our chemistry, our culture. When we're rolling, we're rolling. The key is to start fast and to finish strong, and that's something that we've yet to do. So that's what our focus is going to be, we're going to learn from this loss."

The learning and the little margin for error in the NFL will continue when the Cowboys host the Cleveland Browns (2-1) in Sunday's Week 4 game (1 p.m. ET, Fox). There is a reason why the Cowboys are 6-10 in their past 10 games after their 3-0 start to the 2019 season.

Last season, the Cowboys were 1-6 in one-score games and finished 8-8. It's also worth mentioning the Cowboys are now 0-5 in their past five road games.

All three games this season have been one-score contests and the Cowboys are 1-2. In both losses, Dallas had a chance to win and came up short.

In the 20-17 loss in Week 1 against the Los Angeles Rams, an offensive pass interference penalty negated a 47-yard completion and doomed a comeback. In the 40-39 win against the Atlanta Falcons, the Cowboys scored 16 points in the final 4:57, recovering an onside kick to pull off the comeback.

Against the Seahawks, the Cowboys had three giveaways -- two Dak Prescott interceptions and a lost fumble -- and a muffed kickoff return that led to a Seattle safety. Prescott's first interception came with 36 seconds to play in the half and led to Wilson's third touchdown pass to Tyler Lockett with 7 seconds left in the half. On the first play of the second half, former Cowboy Benson Mayowa recovered a fumble forced by Jarran Reed at the Cowboys 5. Two plays later, Wilson had his fourth touchdown pass.

A 16-15 close game turned into a 30-15 game in less than two minutes of game time.

"I think like anything in the game of football, you need a return on investment on what you emphasize," said Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy, lamenting the ball-security issues. "We've spent a tremendous amount of time handling the football and we need to do a much better job in that area."

Prescott nearly willed the Cowboys to a comeback despite all of the team's shortcomings.

He completed 37 of 57 passes for a career-high 472 yards a week after he became the first Cowboys quarterback to throw for 450 yards and rushed for three scores against Atlanta. He had three touchdown passes of at least 40 yards, becoming the third Cowboys quarterback to do that in a game.

His chance to out-Wilson Wilson and the Seahawks ended after he magically escaped a would-be sack, gathered himself and tried to find Noah Brown in the end zone for a touchdown. Instead, Ryan Neal came down with the interception with six seconds to play.

"Continuously, looking at it the last three weeks, we're only stopping ourselves," Prescott said. "We have to get out of our own way, be cleaner with the ball, play smarter football and find a way to start faster.

"Our coaches and these players are going to go back and figure out a way to get this thing right and clean it up."