LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — When a sliding Andy Dalton got a concussion from a shoulder-to-head blow that sent the quarterback’s helmet flying, Dallas coach Mike McCarthy noticed that none of the other Cowboys got in the face of Washington linebacker Jon Bostic, who was ejected for the hit.
“We speak all the time about playing for one another, protecting one another,” McCarthy said. “It definitely was not the response you would expect.”
The Cowboys didn’t do much of what their coach might have expected — or hoped for, really — in a disastrous 25-3 loss at Washington on a rainy, dreary Sunday in a nearly stadium, save for some friends and family invited by the home club.
Running back Ezekiel Elliott, for one, said he’s never been this frustrated.
“We’ve got to be better than we were today,” he said after gaining just 45 yards on 12 carries. “We weren’t good at all.”
McCarthy, now 2-5 in his first year in Dallas, called his team’s display “disappointing” and “not a very good day.”
Well, there’s an understatement. The Cowboys were outgained 397-142, allowed Washington to convert six of its initial eight third-down conversions and allowed 208 yards on the ground.
“I talked to them at halftime about the ‘Here we go again’ mode on the sideline,” McCarthy said, “and we’ve got to move past that.”
What he did rule out were any personnel changes, insisting that “it hasn’t crossed my mind” when asked specifically about a switch to defensive coordinator Mike Nolan’s status.
Dallas trailed 22-3 in the third quarter when Dalton left after Bostic drove into him at the end of a third-down scramble.
Ben DiNucci, a rookie from James Madison, replaced Dalton, who took over as the Cowboys’ starter after Dak Prescott broke his ankle this month. Dalton was 9 for 19 for 75 yards with an interception Sunday before exiting.
DiNucci said he spoke to Dalton in the locker room after the game.
“He doesn’t really remember what happened,” DiNucci said.
The Cowboys have given up at least 20 points in the first half of six consecutive games — something no NFL team has done since at least 2000. The only time Nolan’s group was stingier than that through two quarters was in a 20-17 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 1, when LA only scored 13 by halftime.
Since then, though, the first-half point totals for Dallas opponents: 29, 23, 31, 20, 21, 22.
Keep in mind, it’s not as if Washington is some sort of offensive juggernaut. This is a club that benched its starting QB, 2019 first-round pick Dwayne Haskins, to go with offseason free-agent pickup Kyle Allen. A club that came in with the league’s 31st-ranked offense and 32nd-ranked rushing game. A club that keeps picking up wideouts off the street to plug in with its one legitimate playmaker, second-year receiver Terry McLaurin.
Indeed, Washington (2-5) not only had lost five games in a row entering Sunday, it hadn’t managed to score more than 20 points in any of them — not just failing to get to 20 in a half, but in an entire game since a 27-17 Week 1 win over Philadelphia.
By halftime, Washington already had accumulated 125 yards rushing and Allen had thrown for two TDs, including a 52-yarder to McLaurin, who got way behind cornerback Trevon Diggs.
There’s plenty of blame to go around, though. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore’s bunch wasn’t any better than the Cowboys’ defense in Sunday’s first half. Again, it’s not as though the Cowboys were going up against the Steel Curtain or the Purple People Eaters or current Washington coach Ron Rivera’s 1985 Chicago Bears.
There was a strip-sack of Dalton for a safety the first time Dallas had the ball. There was a thrown-away ball on a fourth-and-1. There was a pass to Elliott that turned into an interception when the running back bobbled the ball.
And there was the scene of Dalton yelling and gesticulating on the sideline after a sack ended a drive in the second quarter.
To be fair, this is an injury-depleted unit — missing, above all, Prescott, but also key starters along the offensive line. Still, stars such as Elliott, Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb are available.
“We’re not doing the basics,” McCarthy said. “Let’s quit candy-coating it.”
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL