Mac Engel

Cowboys’ Zeke and Witten bemoan the rarest of sights: lost fumbles in loss to Saints

Former Dallas Cowboys head coach Barry Switzer once quipped, “You can’t take the homer out of instant replay.”

Watching the replays of Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott’s fumble against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night and even the most neutral of eyes could argue the young man was down before the ball came loose.

Alas, Zeke lost his first fumble of the year.

“I mean, shoot, I just coughed it up. They just took it from me,” Zeke said.

If the same play happens at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, $100 says it’s the Cowboys’ ball.

When Cowboys tight end Jason Witten lost his fumble, however, no replay was needed.

After the Cowboys’ 12-10 loss against the Saints in New Orleans on Sunday night, a handful of plays will punch the coaches and players around when they review the game.

Along with a near touchdown pass thrown by quarterback Dak Prescott in the first half, the two lost fumbles will bother them the most.

With less than two minutes remaining in the first half, the Cowboys had the ball at their own 43-yard line and faced a 4th-and-1.

The Cowboys have the “best running back in the NFL” and the best “offensive line in the NFL.” Coach Jason Garrett acted accordingly and called for a Zeke run up the middle.

It was not a pretty run, but Zeke actually gained two yards. And it was good, save for that minor detail about the ball coming out and the Saints recovering.

Replays showed that Zeke looked to be down before the ball came loose and the Saints recovered. Or it was at least close.

“It’s unacceptable. This team relies on me in moments like that - 4th and 1. I just can’t let the team down like that,” Zeke said. “It does not really matter if my elbow was down. I have to take care of the ball in that situation. The team relies on me to take care of the ball.

“I don’t care if the elbow was down or not. I can’t leave any error for doubt.”

Zeke entered the game with 923 career carries, and total of three lost fumbles.

That ratio is good. And then there is Jason Witten.

Midway through the second quarter, Prescott hit Witten for a first down pass on 3rd-and-4. Witten was crossing over midfield when the ball was punched out and the Saints recovered.

Before Sunday, Witten had more than 1,100 career receptions and a total of eight fumbles. He lost six.

After the game, he looked sick when talking about the play.

“When you have mistakes like that, it won’t be a good night’s sleep,” Witten said. “I always say, having a turnover is the worst feeling in the world because you feel like you let everybody down.”

He wasn’t the only one. There were others.

But when the Cowboys watch the film of their loss to the Saints, their mistakes will be impossible to miss.

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Mac Engel is an award-winning columnist who has extensive experience covering Fort Worth-Dallas area sports for 20 years. He has covered high schools, colleges, all four major sports teams as well as Olympic games and the world of entertainment, too. He combines dry wit with first-person reporting to complement a head of hair that is almost unfair.
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