Like Tony Romo, Cowboys QB Dak Prescott can do only so much

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Jerry Jones calls not winning a Super Bowl with Tony Romo as his quarterback one of the biggest regrets of his tenure as the owner and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys.

In a few years, he might have the same lament with quarterback Dak Prescott, especially after watching Sunday's 49-38 loss to the Cleveland Browns (3-1).

If what Prescott is doing lately looks familiar, well, it shouldn't. No quarterback in NFL history has thrown for more yards than Prescott's total of 1,424 yards in his past three games.

If Prescott's stats look somewhat familiar, however, that's because the situation looks a lot like what Tony Romo went through from 2011 to 2013 when the Cowboys finished 8-8 each season, losing de facto NFC East championship games in Week 17 each time to the New York Giants, Washington Football Team and Philadelphia Eagles (although back surgery kept Romo out of that game).

Against the Browns on Sunday, Prescott threw for a career-high 502 yards on 41-of-58 passing. He threw four touchdown passes and had one pass intercepted. He also lost a fumble.

Twice in Cowboys franchise history have quarterbacks thrown for more than 500 yards. Prescott has a similarity with Romo. In a 51-48 loss to the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning in 2013, Romo threw for 506 yards and had five touchdown passes and an interception.

"We're going to continue to fight," Prescott said, his team now a surprising 1-3 under new coach Mike McCarthy. "No matter what happens in the game, we're never going to give up. This team's going to always be resilient. We're going to stay at it. That's what we know; that's the only thing that we know."

From 2011 to 2013, the Cowboys' defense finished 14th, 19th and 32nd. In 18 of the 24 losses among those three seasons, the Dallas defense allowed 27 points or more.

The 2020 Cowboys defense has allowed more points through the first four games (146) than any other team in franchise history, putting them on pace for a staggering 584 allowed.

The Cowboys were retooling their offensive line from 2011 to 2013 and Romo had to do most of it on his own. In 2020, the Cowboys are retooling their defense and Prescott has had to do more than he has ever done.

Like Romo, Prescott's mistakes have been magnified. In the second quarter against Cleveland, Prescott lost a fumble on a strip sack by Myles Garrett, and on the next series, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott lost a fumble. The Browns turned a tied game into a 28-14 advantage that would eventually balloon to 41-14.

It was similar to the Cowboys' Week 3 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Late in the first half, Prescott was intercepted, and to open the second half, he fumbled, which Seattle turned into 14 points.

"Making the same mistakes over and over again," Prescott said. "We keep hurting ourselves on offense, putting our defense in a bad spot, and not starting fast enough. And that's what's been killing us over the past few games; and once again, it's what hurt us tonight."

But like Romo in that three-season stretch, the Cowboys were in position to pull off the biggest comeback in NFL history because of Prescott. The quarterback's second TD to rookie receiver CeeDee Lamb and subsequent 2-point rush by Amari Cooper cut Cleveland's lead to 41-38 with 3:42 to play.

In the fourth quarter against the Browns, Prescott completed 21 of 30 passes for 254 yards and had two touchdown passes. In 39 of his 64 starts entering the season, Prescott did not throw for 254 yards in a game.

But the Cowboys' defense, which allowed a franchise-high 307 yards rushing Sunday, wilted again on Odell Beckham Jr.'s 50-yard reverse, and Prescott's final pass was intercepted, just as it was at Seattle after he spun free from a sure sack. On this attempt, Cooper took the blame for the turnover, saying he did not run his route correctly.

Prescott briefly stood with his hands on his hips almost in disbelief.

It was a similar pose Romo had when his fourth-quarter interception against Washington in Week 17 ended a miracle comeback in 2012. Or, Romo's late interception against the Broncos in 2013. Or, after Dan Bailey's game-winning field goal try was short after Romo put the Cowboys in position to beat Arizona in the final minute, only to lose in overtime in Week 13 in 2011.

The Cowboys still have time to rewrite what feels like a familiar script.

"It doesn't make sense and it doesn't add up right now," Prescott said. "But as I said before, I believe in the men that we have, the great leaders and coaches that we have, that we'll have it fixed."

Prescott will give them a chance. As Romo did, he needs more help.