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No more secret sauce: Are Cowboys the worst team in the NFL?

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There's no way to sugarcoat this mess anymore, the Cowboys are a bad team.

A Day with Bill Parcells Photo by Brent Stirton/Getty Images

We is broken.

A long time ago and in a place far, far away, the Cowboys won three consecutive games against the 49ers, Redskins, and Chiefs, outscoring each opponent by at least 11 points. Since then, they have lost three in a row, each by at least 20 points. Do you know which team last lost three consecutive games by 20 or more points?

The 2012 Oakland Raiders, who finished the season 4-12. Not even this year's 0-10 Browns, 1-9 49ers, or 2-8 Giants have put up a worse stretch of games than the Cowboys have over the last three weeks. Which means that right now, the Cowboys are worse than the Browns, 49ers, or Giants. Whether that makes them the worst team in the league is largely a matter of opinion, but there's no denying that over the last three weeks, the Cowboys are playing like the worst team in the league.

This week, you'll likely hear a lot about how the Cowboys still have their fate in their own hands, about how Dak Prescott can still lead this team to the playoffs, about how the Cowboys could still run the table, or how a win next week against the Redskins can put them back into the playoff race.

Forget about all of that. The Cowboys are not making the playoffs this year. This is not a team that can suddenly go 5-0 down the stretch. Because contrary to what the Cowboys have said in the past, they have no secret sauce - or it's all used up.

Since 1992, 18 teams had a similarly atrocious three-game streak. Only one of those 18 teams finished the season with a winning record. More importantly, the last time the Cowboys had a similar three-game collapse was in 2004, when they lost to the Bengals (-23 score differential), Eagles (-28), and Ravens (-20) in consecutive weeks en route to a 6-10 record. Partly as a result of the 2004 season, then-coach Bill Parcells brought in a new quarterback in Drew Bledsoe and switched the defense to a 3-4 scheme. The Cowboys also brought in a number of high-priced free agents, acquiring nose tackle Jason Ferguson, cornerback Anthony Henry, and linebacker Scott Fujita, and drafted DeMarcus Ware, Marcus Spears, Marion Barber, and Jay Ratliff to spearhead their turnaround.

With the 2017 season down the drain, the Cowboys' braintrust can now start asking themselves some of the same questions the 2004 braintrust must have asked at the time.

Is it time to move to a different defensive scheme? Do the Cowboys have the right players for their offensive and defensive schemes? Is shopping at the thrift store the right strategy in free agency?

The Cowboys will eventually win another game or two, perhaps when Ezekiel Elliott makes it back, perhaps when they face an even more inept opponent. It won't matter.

Whatever secret sauce they had last year is not working this year, and the Cowboys don't appear to have any idea how to make it work again.