A key reason for the Cowboys success is playing well early. On Sunday in Pittsburgh, the opposite happened for the first time this season. Dallas got down quickly, 12-3.
On the third play from scrimmage, quarterback Dak Prescott was strip-sacked and fumbled the ball away to the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger and Le'Veon Bell quickly turned that into points with a touchdown.
Five minutes into the game, the Cowboys were down 7-0. Prior to playing the Steelers, the Cowboys had given up just 16 first quarter points. That's an average of two a game. Only once previously had they allowed the first touchdown, and that was in San Francisco. The 49ers jumped out to a 14-0 lead before the Cowboys rallied to win comfortably.
Why have the Cowboys started so well this season until this particular Sunday? For one, they start with the ball to open the game more often then not. When they win the coin flip, they elect to be on offense. When they lose the coin flip, the other team usually defers to the second half. Therefore, the Cowboys open almost every game with the ball.
And when they have the ball to open the game, they usually turn that into points which sets the game's pace.
Sunday was a different story. Dallas gave up two 1st quarter touchdowns in Pittsburgh. They had allowed just one previously. Give the Cowboys credit, they responded to those touchdowns with points immediately afterwords. First it was a field goal by Dan Bailey, then a long touchdown on a screen pass from Dak Prescott to Ezekiel Elliott.