Cowboys’ road woes continue with blowout loss at Buffalo

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (88) is tackled buy Buffalo Bills safety Jordan Poyer (21) and safety Damar Hamlin (3) during the second quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus) (Adrian Kraus)

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – The Dallas Cowboys, aka “America’s Team,” are having a hard time when they leave North Texas.

The Cowboys clinched a playoff berth before Sunday's game at Buffalo began, but they fell a game behind in the race for the NFC's top seed thanks to their ongoing struggles on the road.

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The Cowboys (10-4) were overpowered on both sides of the line of scrimmage in soggy conditions and saw their five-game win streak end with a 31-10 loss to the Bills. Unbeaten in seven home games, Dallas dropped to 3-4 on the road.

“Unacceptable,” star pass rusher Micah Parsons said of the team’s road woes.

The Cowboys dropped a half-game behind Philadelphia in the NFC East, and San Francisco now controls the top spot in the conference.

“There’s no excuse for it,” Parsons said. “It’s mind-boggling. I don’t understand it. Why we are not playing well and we’re not coming together on the road? It’s something that we need to look at and get better.”

The Cowboys have a few more chances to find answers. Two of their final three games are on the road, starting next weekend at AFC East-leading Miami.

“Regardless of what’s in front of us, and all the other conversations, there’s too big of a gap between home and away,” coach Mike McCarthy said.

The Cowboys entered the weekend with the NFL’s highest-scoring offense, having outscored their opponents at home by a margin of 279-108. But Dallas has been outscored 156-152 on the road.

“I wish I could put my finger on the difference between the home team and away team that we are approaching this thing,” said Dak Prescott, who finished 21 of 34 passing for a season-low 134 yards and was intercepted for the first time in five games.

“We have to try and figure out what those answers are,” he added. “We have to try to close that gap. We can’t be those two different of teams.”

The Cowboys’ 195 yards of offense against Buffalo were a season low, 2 yards fewer than their output in a 42-10 loss at San Francisco on Oct. 10. That was the only other game in which the Cowboys failed to score in the first quarter. The Cowboys trailed 21-3 against the Bills in their least productive first half of the season.

Steady rain that got heavier in the second half hampered Prescott’s ability to bring the Cowboys back. Losing All-Pro guard Zack Martin to a quadriceps injury in the second quarter, along with having to play from behind, limited the Cowboys' running game to 89 yards on 20 attempts.

McCarthy said Martin “told me he was going to be OK,” and the Cowboys were less concerned with his injury after the game than they were when he limped off the field.

Perhaps more worrisome is how the Cowboys' run defense sagged with defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins missing the game with foot and ankle injuries, and safety Malik Hooker inactive due to an ankle injury.

Led by James Cook’s 179-yard day, the Bills had 266 yards rushing, the most the Cowboys had allowed since giving up 294 yards against the Ravens in a 34-17 loss on Dec. 8, 2020.

Buffalo’s three touchdown drives in the first half spanned at least 11 plays and 75 yards, keeping the ball away from Prescott and the Cowboys for long stretches.

“That’s been our way of winning the games,” Prescott said. “So they beat us in the formula.”

When the Cowboys did possess the ball, they didn’t keep it for very long. They converted 5 of 13 third downs, including 2 of 6 in the first half. Dallas entered the day leading the NFL in third-down success at 49%.

The Cowboys have not lost consecutive games since November 2021, and Prescott believes the team is capable of addressing its road woes before the playoffs begin.

“We’ve got men that know how to prepare, stay true to the process, not panic because things didn’t go our way for one game,” Prescott said. “We’ve got to embrace, more than anything, being on the road.”



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