Dallas Cowboys an onside kick recovery away from being 0-3

The Mike McCarthy era with the Dallas Cowboys is not off to a rousing start. In fact, it has almost been disastrous.

If not for an improbable recovered onside kick in the fourth quarter in Week 2 against the Atlanta Falcons, the Cowboys would be staring at their first 0-3 start since 2001 with their 38-31 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

The last time the Cowboys were 0-3, they were a crumbling franchise with only running back Emmitt Smith remaining from the Triplets era in which three Super Bowls were won in the 1990s.

Entering 2020, these Cowboys were viewed by some as among the most talented in the NFL and a title contender with a Super Bowl-winning coach in McCarthy set to shepherd them back to at least a conference title game for the first time since 1995.

Considering the sad state of the NFC East, the Cowboys will always have a chance to get to the postseason, but this season was always about more than just getting to the playoffs even if McCarthy and his staff did not have an offseason program, full training camp or any preseason games because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Cowboys' defense was shredded by Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who threw three of his five touchdown passes to Tyler Lockett, had another to Jacob Hollister and threw the game winner to DK Metcalf with 1:47 to go from 29 yards.

Wilson should have had a sixth, a 63-yarder to Metcalf in the first quarter, if not for a hustle play by cornerback Trevon Diggs, who punched the ball free from the receiver and through the end zone for a touchback.

The Cowboys also looked undisciplined. They had four defensive penalties in the first half that kept a drive alive. Trysten Hill was penalized for roughing the passer after a 2-point play failed, which allowed Seattle to convert a play later and force the Cowboys to have to score a touchdown to win.

Dak Prescott (472 yards, three touchdown passes) was the only reason the Cowboys were in position to win. He directed what could have been a second straight improbable, fourth-quarter comeback, but the defense could not get a stop when it mattered. And the final drive was halted only after he somehow escaped a sack and had his second pick of the game with six seconds left.

It would have been a heroic ending for Prescott. This loss falls on the Cowboys' defense.

The Cowboys talked during the week about making things simpler defensively to aid the execution, but those measures didn't help.

And now, McCarthy has more questions than answers so far.

Troubling trend: It was all smiles after the Cowboys recovered an onside kick against the Falcons in Week 2, but it masked two failed fake punts and an ill-timed kick return by Dallas that led to poor field position. Against Seattle, Tony Pollard mishandled a kickoff, and Greg Zuerlein had one point-after attempt hit the upright and another get deflected. The Cowboys also had to take a delay of game penalty for having only 10 men on the field. This trend of mishaps cannot continue.

Buy a breakout performance: Through three games, Aldon Smith has been the Cowboys' best defender, and that's not meant as false praise, either. Smith had three sacks of Wilson, giving him four for the season. It was the second-most sacks he has had in a game in his career. He had 5.5 against Chicago in 2012 when he was with San Francisco. A reminder: He had not played a game in the NFL since 2015 before this season because of off-field suspensions.