Cowboys must find motivation in ‘nightmare’ final loss

LANDOVER, Md. — The Dallas Cowboys entered Sunday with hopes of a second straight division title and the chance to move into the NFC’s top two seeds if things go well.

They left FedEx Field with their worst loss of the year, 26-6 to the Washington Commanders, throwing more questions about what the season may be like with a wild card game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next Monday (8:15 p.m.). ET, ESPN/ABC).

“We’re going to suck on this all week,” said owner and general manager Jerry Jones. “If that doesn’t make you want to get ready to go in about six, seven days, nothing else will. It was as complete a kick as we’ve had this year, and we’re going to find out if that will prepare you or not. It should be with what these guys are made of.

The Cowboys’ previous worst loss of the season was a 19-3 loss in Week 1 to the Buccaneers. The Cowboys will have to do something they’ve never done to advance to the playoffs: beat Tom Brady.

He’s 7-0 against Dallas, including wins the past two seasons with Tampa Bay.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that as a team, not just individually but as a team, we can come back and take this nightmare – whatever you want to call it – and turn it into a more,” Jones said. “I’m glad we had the opportunity and I’m glad we didn’t have to watch the Philadelphia game over there and the San Francisco game and say, ‘Boy, did we mess up. “”

Had the Eagles and 49ers lost, the Cowboys would have clinched the NFC’s No. 1 seed with a win over Washington. But Dallas had a performance against the Commanders that was downright awful.

Special teams contributed two turnovers in the first quarter on Dallas’ side of the field. Even with Washington quarterback Sam Howell making the first start of his career, Dallas’ defense was average, giving up 151 rushing yards on 41 attempts and managing just one interception.

But the offense was particularly miserable.

Dak Prescott had a career-worst passing 37.8% (14 of 37) and was intercepted for the 15th time in 12 games. Prescott’s 15 interceptions tied Houston’s Davis Mills for the most in the NFL, despite Prescott missing five games after thumb surgery. He also had an interception returned for a touchdown for the third time in the past four games.

“To me, I mean, s—ty,” Prescott said. “Not to use the language, but as simple as that.”

Coach Mike McCarthy was a little more lenient.

“There was a lot more going on really,” McCarthy said. “It’s not about one guy. You can’t look at our offensive performance and blame it all on one guy. A lot for everyone.”

The Cowboys passed just 182 yards and converted 4 of 18 third down opportunities, the two lowest of the season. The second-worst results came in the loss to the Buccaneers to start the season (244 yards, 3 of 15 on third down).

“No, this one won’t linger,” Prescott said. “Yeah, I mean, it’s easy to go back and look at our work and what we’ve done, especially with that nowhere in these last 16 games. So when you have a performance like that- here, whatever, whatever the reason is maybe we have to look at it individually, take responsibility for it, learn from it and then understand that when the plane lands, we’re over Tampa.

“We know who they are. I’ve played them twice in the last two years, and it will be a good game.”

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