Banged-up Cowboys fall to winless Jets, lose third straight

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It's safe to say Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones has had better birthdays.

Jones turned 77 on Sunday and saw his Cowboys (3-3) lose to a previous winless New York Jets team, 24-22, at MetLife Stadium.

Although last week Jones dismissed the notion of making an in-season coaching change, his patience has to be wearing thin, with the Cowboys having lost three straight games after what looked like a scintillating 3-0 start.

Losing to the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers is one thing. Losing to the Jets is quite another, even if the Jets were buoyed by the return of quarterback Sam Darnold from mononucleosis.

Yes, the Cowboys were without left tackle Tyron Smith (ankle), right tackle La'el Collins (knee) and wide receiver Randall Cobb (back) entering the game and lost leading receiver Amari Cooper (quadriceps), starting cornerbacks Byron Jones and Anthony Brown to hamstring injuries and defensive end Dorance Armstrong (neck), but this is a team that has long touted its depth as a plus.

The only other time Jones made an in-season coaching switch came in 2010 when Jason Garrett was promoted over Wade Phillips after a 1-7 start.

Garrett was the obvious choice to take over then. The choice of passing game coordinator Kris Richard, who calls the defenses, would not be so obvious now with the way his unit has been ripped apart the past two games. In the Cowboys' past two road games, the offense has scored one touchdown, so the choice of offensive coordinator Kellen Moore isn't obvious, either.

The Cowboys' season has reached the critical point already.

QB breakdown: The best quarterbacks can make things happen when things are bleakest. In order to take the next step, Dak Prescott has to do that as well. Without Cobb and Cooper for all but one series, Prescott was throwing to backups Tavon Austin and Cedrick Wilson. He was hurt by five drops of what should have been catchable passes, but his accuracy should have been better in certain scenarios. He stayed away from the big mistakes, but he failed to make key plays in the passing game.

Describe the game in two words: Ugly. We don't need two words. Yes, the Cowboys were without three key contributors entering the game and lost a handful during the game, but they have bragged on their depth for some time, and it didn’t come through.

Troubling trend: The Cowboys' defense is floundering. Last week against the Packers, Aaron Jones became the first opponent with four rushing touchdowns in a game against Dallas. On Sunday, Robby Anderson had a 92-yard touchdown catch against the Cowboys, the second-longest pass allowed in franchise history. The defense entered the season with high expectations, but right now they are ineffective. The Jets entered the game averaging 9.8 points and 179.5 yards on offense. They had more than that in the first half.