Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott attempts to pass during a game against the Atlanta Falcons earlier this month. Photo by David Tulis/UPI | License Photo
FRISCO, Texas -- It's must-win time for the Dallas Cowboys (5-5) against the Los Angeles Chargers (4-6) on Thursday.
The Cowboys have little more room for error as they hope to stay in the playoff chase in the NFC. The division is all but gone to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Cowboys' only realistic hope is the wild-card and they must get things turned around following two straight blowout losses.
The players have had their own internal talks, led by tight end Jason Witten, who spoke to the offense. Head coach Jason Garrett has let them know they can win out or lose out. It's on them and time for them to show their character.
Quarterback Dak Prescott said it's his job to play better after the worst performance of his career in a four-turnover meltdown in 37-9 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday, but also remain the steady leader.
"It's huge. For me it's just about being the same whether it's winning or losing, it's about being the same and never wavering, never showing lack of confidence in myself and my teammates," Prescott said.
"It's about just being there for them, keeping them going and having all the confidence that we'll go 11-5 moving forward."
Prescott promises to be better going forward because he is going to play smarter in the passing game and cut it loose more as runner. He can point to instances against the Eagles in which those things possibly could have made a difference for an offense that has had just one touchdown the past two weeks.
And while he didn't throw the football well, he said he is more disappointed in the mis-reads and poor decisions he made as a quarterback than the errant passes.
One play in particular came late in the second quarter. It was third-and-6 from the Eagles' 29 and he faced an all-out blitz. Prescott threw deep to Dez Bryant in the end zone. But he should have gone to wide-open Cole Beasley crossing underneath instead on a play that would have resulted in a first down and perhaps a touchdown.
Prescott said he is still beating his head against the wall for that decision because it could have made a huge difference in the game, possibly allowing the Cowboys to lead 16-7 at halftime while gaining confidence and momentum. Instead, they had to settle for a field goal in what was the last of their points of the game as the Eagles scored 30 consecutive points in the second half.
"I've just got to take some passes underneath and let guys run with the ball in their hands," Prescott said. "The game goes back to two or three plays, and you can always say if we would've done this or that on that play it would've been a different game.
"For me, it's just getting the ball out sometimes and trust a short route is going to get as much as a deep ball down the field."
Prescott also recalled a run on the sideline where he went out of bounds after the first down rather than cutting it up the field to possibly gain more yards. He said everyone has to do more.
"We've got to execute better, we've got to make guys miss sometimes, one-on-ones we've got to make guys miss, sometimes getting out of the pocket instead of running out of bounds - hey maybe I'll try to make that safety miss and try to score," Prescott said. "It's just that one right now, fighting, it's got to come out of us right now."
SERIES HISTORY: 11th regular-season meeting. Cowboys lead series, 6-4. The Chargers have won the last two. The last meeting was in 2013, a 30-21 Chargers victory.
--Cowboys owner Jerry Jones didn't blink when finally asked point blank on his radio show Tuesday if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell misled him about the potential suspension status of star running back Ezekiel Elliott.
The Star-Telegram first reported that Jones' angst with Goodell was rooted in him being told Elliott would not be suspended for allegedly committing domestic violence against former girlfriend Tiffany Thompson and then being blind-sided when he was given a six-game ban Aug. 11. Jones considered the suspension an unforgivable breach of trust.
The Star-Telegram story has since been backed up by an ESPN The Magazine report detailing the same narrative.
On his radio show on 105.3 The Fan Tuesday, Jones seemingly confirmed he was told one thing initially.
"Well, again, the commissioner has a right to change his mind," Jones said. "He's got a right to say one thing one day and say another thing the next day. He can sleep on it. All of those things happen. But the commissioner is very powerful and probably in the most powerful position relative to his constituency that there is in anything. Well, all owners should be holding the commissioner accountable in my view. That's the gist of this thing."
Jones said it's wrong to suggest that the primary motive for current efforts toward blocking a contract extension for Goodell is because he got misled and was made to look bad when he arrogantly and adamantly predicted no suspension for Elliott throughout the summer.
He said there were a number of reasons why Elliott should have faced no punishment, including prior precedent.
But what he wants clear is that his primary interest is doing what's right for the league and he believes the commissioner has too much power and that owners should be able to influence him and hold him accountable. Those are the things he is trying to accomplish in holding up the extension and trying to get all 32 owners to be involved in the agreement rather than just the six-man compensation committee.
"Let me just say this because the interpretation is that I got out over my skis and consequently I got embarrassed because I said nothing was going to happen," Jones said. "That's just not right. Let's just go to the meat of it and let's just carry it on back. There was rationale. There was precedent. There were all kinds of things that would have influenced the commissioner's decision there. Now that's the thing that ought to be looked at, not Zeke's situation, but the entire way Zeke's and the philosophy and everything behind Zeke's business.
"And, so, candidly, as far as the league is concerned, Zeke is done. And Zeke is done as far as suspension is concerned. And everybody does what they can do in that. But that's not what this issue is. I know that it is going to be couched. But did it cause me to basically reassess, look harder? Do I get mad? Of course, I get mad. Do I get happy? Yes, I get happy. I've been one of the biggest supporters of Roger Goodell that there has ever been. I've known him for 27 years. That's a way to distort where my energy and my activity is right now about the direction we're going in the future."
--Jerry Jones doesn't sound like an owner who is considering making any changes to the team's coaching staff. Jones called head coach Jason Garrett and his staff "outstanding" during his radio show on 105.3 The Fan on Tuesday morning.
Garrett and his staff have received criticism of late for not making the right in-game adjustments. The Cowboys have blown three halftime leads this season, and have been outscored by a combined 47-0 in the second half the past two weeks in losses to the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles.
"I've seen coaches, to a man, make some outstanding adjustments in their time with the Cowboys. So, I know that they adjust," Jones said. "They might not adjust at the right time in a series. They might not adjust at the right time in a ballgame, and they might lose ballgames. But this is a really outstanding coaching staff.
"I'm really proud to have them with the makeup of our personnel with how our young guys have been trained with this staff. I think that this gives us our best chance to get better when we need to. And, so, I can't at all say that, 'Guys, you've got to change your philosophy. You've got to change your detail.' All you can say is I know you are more attentive to what we should have done than I am, or in the case of an assistant coach what a head coach expects of them. So, we are having adjustments and I do understand though and they do too.
"This is where you go for the criticism, just as the criticism that I get when we look at it and say, 'Well, it looks like you're devoid of talent out there. You need more talent.' I accept that. That comes with it."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Just look at the man. He's like a cartoon character, a freaking test-tube baby. It's unbelievable the size of him. You just look at him from the beginning he's got athleticism and size. Just the way he is athletically, you'd think he'd be a big mauler but he really isn't. He's just a technician and you can tell he's a well-rounded vet that's blessed with some freakish athletic ability to go along with it." -- Chargers DE Joey Bosa on Cowboys LT Tyron Smith.
NOTES: RT La'el Collins landed on the injury report Tuesday, being limited in practice with a back injury. Veteran Byron Bell took first-team reps at right tackle in the early portion of practice open to the media. Bell said he'd have no issues playing right tackle even though he had been working at left tackle of late with Tyron Smith sidelined with groin/ back injuries. Bell started in Smith's place in last Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles, although Smith is trending toward returning this week. Collins has started every game at right tackle this season for the Cowboys, and has fared OK in his first year at the position. ... SS Jeff Heath (concussion) was a full participant Tuesday for a second consecutive day. He said he'll be ready to return for the Thanksgiving game against the Chargers after sitting out last Sunday. ... LT Tyron Smith has practiced in limited fashion this week and could be available after missing the past two games with a groin injury. ... K Dan Bailey (groin) could kick on Thursday after missing the last four games. Mike Nugent would still handle kickoffs. ... LB Anthony Hitchens (groin) did not practice for a second consecutive day, but the hope remains he'll be eligible to go against the Chargers. ... LB Sean Lee (hamstring) didn't practice and owner Jerry Jones ruled him out on his radio show Tuesday.