Of all the indignities Andy Dalton suffered Sunday, the most egregious wasn't the dirty hit from Jon Bostic that knocked him out of the Cowboys' humiliating 25-3 loss to That Awful Team from Washington.
The worst was the seemingly gutless reaction from teammates as their quarterback lay helmetless and helpless.
"Definitely not the response you would expect," Mike McCarthy said, barely concealing his contempt.
Bostic caught more flak from his own teammates, which pretty much sums up a Dallas team that has now hit the trifecta nearly halfway through the most shocking season in Jerry Jones' rollicking tenure.
Everson Griffen, who finally managed a sack, argued afterward that the Cowboys haven't committed the cardinal sin of quitting, the most serious charge you can level against an athlete. Even if you give him the benefit of the doubt, it's a moot point.
Because even if you don't believe anonymous internal charges against McCarthy's staff, this team is so leaderless, so lost, it doesn't matter if the players have tuned out the coaches. The best you can say about them is they still appear to be in a state of shock over Dak Prescott's gruesome injury. His loss has affected more than just the offense. Dak is the rare player who commands the unwavering respect of players on both sides of the ball, and no one has stepped up to fill the void his absence has left. His teammates have tried to fill it instead with empty gestures, none more insulting than dedicating the rest of the season to No. 4.
So Sunday's effort was the Cowboys' idea of a tribute to their fallen quarterback?
They couldn't even stand up for his back-up.
The fact that an offensive line down to its last starter couldn't provide Dalton a ghost of a chance wasn't exactly surprising. An embarrassing loss Monday to Arizona provided a good preview of what was to come. The Cowboys may have the NFL's best set of receivers and a running back who remains one of the league's best when he's not littering the field with footballs, but none of it matters if the quarterback doesn't have time to gather his wits.
And that, even more than Dak's loss, explains how the league's most explosive offense through the first five games has now scored 13 points in the last two.
As for the defense, well, it's the same ol', same ol'. Another running back put up a career day. This time it was Antonio Gibson, who rushed for 128 yards, more than twice his previous best. Kyle Allen wasn't great, but he was 15 of 25 for 194 yards and 2 touchdowns and didn't do anything to get his team beat.
Maybe the most alarming aspect of the Cowboys' defense Sunday was that, for the first time in weeks, players seemed to line up in the right place most of the time. Not that it mattered. Washington pushed it around like a shopping cart.
Here's the problem with making excuses for the Cowboys' new coaching staff: Ron Rivera hasn't had any more time to break in a system and culture than McCarthy has, and he now has the same record as a team once universally projected as a Super Bowl contender.
The only difference right now between the Cowboys and New York Jets is that the latter has a two-game lead in the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes. No matter what the Cowboys do, they won't catch them. Not much chance of distancing themselves from the Jets, either.
Any hopes for this season are lost. Who do you think the Cowboys could beat at this rate? Cincinnati? The Bengals lost to the Browns on Sunday but only after a near-perfect rally by Baker Mayfield. Minnesota? Maybe.Gallery: Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Football Team
Could the Cowboys still win the NFC East? Forget it. The Cowboys barely beat the Giants at home, and that was with Dak playing most of the game. They were just dominated by a Washington team that scored more points in the first half than it had in five games this season. Say what you want this week about the Eagles and mercurial Carson Wentz, but if Dalton can't play because of a concussion, the Cowboys will be down to Ben DiNucci, the rookie.
Give the kid this much, he was certainly game Sunday. Not only did he agree to go into the game after his predecessor was nearly beheaded, he entered it with the exuberance and innocence of youth.
"Let's have some fun," he told his teammates. "We've got nothing else to lose."
Not so long ago, such a bleak pronouncement by a Dallas quarterback would have seemed incomprehensible. Not anymore. Maybe the Cowboys have finally met a concept they can grasp.