Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys come up short in Bryant’s return

Pro Bowl receiver Dez Bryant played for the first time in seven weeks.

Combustible defensive end Greg Hardy had an interception, ending a five-week turnover drought for the defense.

Newcomer David Irving blocked a field goal.

Yet, the losing streak continues for the Dallas Cowboys, who still can’t get it right.

Kicker Steven Hauschka overcame an earlier block with a 24-yard field goal with 1:06 left in the game to give the Seattle Seahawks a bruising 13-12 victory in front of an ultra-noisy crowd of 91,486 at AT&T Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

It was the fifth consecutive loss for the reeling Cowboys, who have not won since quarterback Tony Romo suffered a fractured collarbone in Week 2.

The hope of keeping their season alive until he returns Nov. 22 continue to diminish with each loss.

The Cowboys (2-5) are mired in the basement of the NFC East, whose wretched status is their only saving grace. No team is seemingly capable of taking control. The New York Giants (4-4) lead the way, followed the Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) and Washington Redskins (3-4).

“I’ll go with you on the fortunate thing if you let me say how unfortunate it was that we’ve got this fortunate by how others are playing,” owner Jerry Jones said. “The third win is critical. I never thought I’d be standing here saying it in this way.

“We certainly are getting a lot of help throughout the rest of the division, so we know there’s a peek of hope out there.”

The Cowboys have hope, but they also running out of time.

This is Dallas’ first five-game losing streak since 2010, when they started 1-7, fired Wade Phillips and turned the team over to Jason Garrett.

Now, the Cowboys are heading into a must-win matchup against the Eagles next Sunday — hoping to avoid their first six-game losing streak since going 1-15 in 1989.

“Well, in real life, the division where everybody is gives us an opportunity with the record we have,” Garrett said. “But we really don’t focus on anybody but ourselves. That’s what we expect them to do. They embrace that. That’s what we have to do and get ready for our next game against Philadelphia.”

The Cowboys had hoped that the return of Bryant — who played for the first time since fracturing his foot in the season opener — would make a difference.

But Bryant had just two catches for 12 yards in his return to an offense that could not reach the end zone for the second time in three games.

Bryant was limited by a game plan that had him on a pitch count, his presence as a decoy and blanket coverage by All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman.

“Let me get something straight real quick,” Bryant said. “Hey man, ain’t nobody got locked down over here. Let’s get real. I understand our situation. I understand it. We all are still a little bit cautious. My mindset is I’m a confident player. We just have to continue to keep on working for us as a whole to get stronger. All we can do is get better.”

The bigger problem remains the poor play at quarterback. Matt Cassel was just 13-of-25 passing for 97 yards.

It was Cassel’s second start since replacing Brandon Weeden, who failed to lead the offense to a touchdown in a 30-6 loss to the New England Patriots two games ago.

The Cowboys are 0-6 without Romo the past two years, and 6-14 since 2006.

“I don’t sense desperation, and I don’t since panic amongst this team,” Cassel said. “Obviously, any time you are in a five-game losing streak you want to turn the tide as soon as possible.”

Running back Darren McFadden had 20 carries for just 64 yards in his first start in place of the absent Joseph Randle.

The Cowboys can do nothing about a blown call by the officiating crew at the end of the first half. The Seahawks called an illegal second timeout to avoid being penalized for 12 men on the field as the Cowboys were lining up for a 35-yard field goal.

The officials didn’t flag Seattle for the second timeout, which in turn prevented them from being penalized for having too many men on the field.

“It’s double jeopardy,” referee Carl Cheffers said in a pool report. “The timeout should not have been granted. Obviously, the snap did not happen. At the time the timeout was erroneously granted, it was not, by rule, 12 men on the field. We just made a mistake.”

If Seattle would have been flagged, it would have given the Cowboys a first down at the 12.

A touchdown was not a guarantee, but the Cowboys didn’t get the chance.

Garrett refused to talk about officiating.

The Cowboys do feel good about Hardy’s interception of quarterback Russell Wilson in the fourth quarter. He showed off his athleticism, jumping a screen pass to make what appeared to a game-changing play.

It set up a 27-yard field from Dan Bailey, giving the Cowboys a 12-10 lead.

It was the first Cowboys turnover since Week 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 20. It spanned a whopping 292 plays.

Irving then brought the Hardy experience full circle by blocking a 47-yard goal on ensuing drive.

There was certainly no evidence Hardy knocking the clipboard out of the special teams coaches hand on that play or berating his teammates _ as he did in the 27-20 loss to the New York Giants following a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown last Sunday _ just pure joy on the Cowboys sideline and pandemonium in the stands.

But a Cowboys team that has blown fourth quarter leads in four of the five losses were unable to stop Wilson and the Seahawks as they marched for the game-winning field goal.

Wilson, who completed 19 of 30 passes for 210 yards with one touchdown and one interception, converted three of four third downs on the final drive after converted just two of eight previously.

The defense played winning football in giving up just 13 points and getting no help from a punchless offense. But defense didn’t do its job when it mattered most at winning time, per frustrated linebacker Sean Lee.

It’s an issue that must be corrected if the Cowboys hope to end the losing streak and get back into the division race, no matter bad NFC East.

“We have to find a way to get out of this hole,” Lee said. “We have to make a big play in a big situation Last game we had a shot to win and we give up a big play. This time we have shot to get off the field when we are up and we let them drive the field. Those situations that are key, we haven’t come up big in. We have to find a way to win games

We haven’t found a way to win games. We have been in close games. But we haven’t made plays down the stretch in the fourth quarter to win games. It needs to be now.

At halftime, Darren Woodson became the 21st member of the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor.

The game was delayed for several minutes after Ricardo Lockette was injured following agetting hit by Jeff Heath on a punt with 12 seconds to go in the half.

Both teams circled the fallen Lockette near midfield. He was talking and moving his hands while being carted off as the crowd gave him an ovation. His injury was updated to a concussion, and he had full movement.

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