As a demoralizing defeat came to its conclusion for the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night, it was hard to fathom that, at one point, the 38-10 result was up for grabs. But it was.
Amid a scoreless tie, the Arizona Cardinals exploded for 21 straight second-quarter points. As has been the case much of the season for the Cowboys, the defense certainly didn't look steady, much less formidable. That isn't the entire tale, though.
Alas, it was offensive turnovers for Dallas that truly turned the turned the game, beginning with two Ezekiel Elliott fumbles on back-to-back drives that the Cardinals turned into a 14-0 lead that eventually became a blowout victory for Arizona and a disaster of a loss for the Cowboys.
With quarterback Dak Prescott gone for the season with an ankle injury, many looked upon Elliott to shoulder the load going forward. He was unable to do that Monday, though he did shoulder the blame.
"I don't think we can use [Prescott being gone] as an excuse," Elliott said, via ESPN's Todd Archer. "I'm just going to keep saying it over and over – I started the game out with two fumbles, gave the ball away and gave them all the momentum they need to go take off. I want to say I'm sorry and this one is on me. I need to be better."
Elliott's showing was one of the wrong kind of individual history as he lost two fumbles in a game for the first time in his career, per NFL Research. While it was a first, it's not the first time fumbles have been problematic for Zeke.
Entering Monday, the Cowboys were tied for last in turnovers given up and had four more against the Cardinals.
"We can't be handing it to the other team," Andy Dalton said.
But that's what Elliott's been doing at an alarming rate. He now has five fumbles on the season and four lost. The four lost are one less than his previous career total through four seasons.
Elliott's second bobble got him pulled by coach Mike McCarthy, with Tony Pollard replacing him.
"At the end of the day, Zeke is our bell cow. We need to get it right," McCarthy said, via the Dallas Morning News' Michael Gehklen.
Elliott finished a most forgettable night with 49 yards on a season-low 12 carries.
Like Elliott, McCarthy took on the blame, but they agreed about the largest problem plaguing the offense.
"We didn't play very well on offense, defense or special teams," McCarthy said, via The Athletic's Jon Machota. "Most importantly, I didn't coach very well. I have a continuing issue with ball security on my football team."
Indeed, the Cowboys have problems aplenty and their star running back's issue with fumbling is now among them.