Dak Prescott was outplayed by Mitchell Trubisky. Jason Witten was very quiet, and Brett Maher made two big mistakes in the kicking game.
Right now, the biggest reason for optimism for Dallas just might be the rest of the NFC East.
Prescott's late rally ran out of time, and the Cowboys dropped their third straight game with a 31-24 loss to the Chicago Bears on Thursday night.
"We did all of the things that you can do that cause you to lose football games," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said.
Dallas (6-7) marched down the field on its first possession, capping a 17-play, 75-yard drive with the first of two 2-yard touchdown runs for Ezekiel Elliott. Then it was stuck in neutral for most of the next 2 1/2 quarters.
The Bears (7-6) ripped off 24 straight points before Elliott scored again on the first play of the fourth quarter. It was similar to Dallas' game against Buffalo a week ago, when the Cowboys scored on their first and last drive in a 26-15 loss to the Bills.
After Elliott's second TD, Maher sent the ensuing kickoff out of bounds to set up Chicago at its 40. The Bears responded with a three-play, 60-yard drive, with Trubisky scrambling for 23 yards to make it 31-14 with 13:22 remaining.
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Trubisky passed for 244 yards and three touchdown, and had 10 carries for a season-high 63 yards. His previous best was 18 yards rushing in a 19-14 victory over the New York Giants on Nov. 24.
"Everyone's got mobile quarterbacks," Cowboys defensive end Robert Quinn said. "It's just an extra challenge playing defense when you have a mobile quarterback, but it's no excuse. We all got jobs and responsibilities, and we just need to handle them better."
Dallas lost for the seventh time in 10 games since its 3-0 start. But it still leads the NFC East by a half-game over Philadelphia, which hosts the last-place Giants on Monday night. The Cowboys visit the Eagles on Dec. 22.
"I don't know how it is, we're still in the leader for our division," Prescott said. "Got to be thankful for that, but we can't hang our hat on that. We have to figure out our issues now, fix them and get better."
Prescott passed for 334 yards and a touchdown, but he did most of his damage with the Cowboys trying to rally in the final quarter. Witten finished with five receptions for 37 yards.
The Bears played without cornerback Prince Amukamara, who was sidelined by a hamstring injury. Kevin Toliver II replaced Amukamara in the starting lineup, and Amari Cooper felt the Cowboys should have gone after him more.
"I think we should've tested him to see what he was about," said Cooper, who had a 19-yard TD reception in the fourth. "But obviously we had our game plan ready. We didn't know this guy was going to play until today."
Dallas also was hurt by another missed field goal by Maher, who is 20 for 30 on the season. With the Cowboys trailing 10-7 in the second quarter, he was wide right on a 42-yard try.
"I felt like I did a good job staying in my lane this week," said Maher, who connected from 31 yards with 8 seconds left. "I felt like I hit every ball pretty well tonight, and I'll put my head on the pillow tonight feeling good about what I did this week and moving forward."
Maher also missed two field goals against Buffalo, from 35 and 47 yards. The Cowboys then brought in kickers for tryouts, but opted to stay with Maher.
Asked if the team might make a change now, Jones said he wasn't going to get into those kinds of details.
"We basically have a good assessment of what the kicking situation is availability-wise other than the kickers we have right now, and so that'll dictate what we're doing," Jones said.