David Moore

The Cowboys' first game of the year at AT&T Stadium was a loss.

So was their last.

While head coach Jason Garrett and his players can appreciate the symmetry, all involved find the lack of progress from January until now disturbing.

This young team didn't build on a 13-3 season. It didn't use a 34-31 playoff loss to Green Bay on Jan. 15 as fuel to come back and push beyond the second round of the playoffs. These Cowboys took a step back.

Confession: That observation is softened because of the holiday season. These Cowboys took several steps back. The offense regressed and the poise key players exhibited late in games last season has gone missing.

These shortcomings were exposed yet again with Sunday afternoon's 21-12 loss to Seattle, the game that eliminated the Cowboys from postseason consideration.

"It sucks,'' defensive end Tyrone Crawford said.

And he's Canadian. Imagine what he'd have to say if his country weren't so nice.

A Cowboys team that dominated the first half was outscored 14-3 in the second, scraping together just 104 yards. It marked the fourth time in the last seven games that Dallas was held to six points or fewer in the second half.

Garrett spoke of how his team battled, but he did concede, "We didn't do the things necessary to win it.''

It was necessary for Ezekiel Elliott to rush for more than 24 yards on nine carries in the final two quarters for the Cowboys to beat Seattle.

It was necessary for Dak Prescott to be better than 11 of 16 for 106 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions after halftime. He was also sacked four times.

It was necessary that Dez Bryant not let a pass go through his hands on the Seattle 20-yard line late in the third quarter for one of those interceptions.

Thirteen plays after that turnover, Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin displayed a chemistry that Prescott and Bryant lack when the Seahawks quarterback found his lead receiver with a 6-yard touchdown pass to ice the victory.

"Russ always finds a way,'' Seattle coach Pete Carroll said of Wilson. "He always makes something happen at the end.

"You can count on that.''

You can now count the Cowboys out of the playoffs. The postseason will get underway without Dallas for the fifth time in seven full seasons under Garrett.

The franchise will now be on the outside looking in for the playoffs in seven of the last 10 seasons.

One other note: The Cowboys, who finish the regular season in Philadelphia next weekend, went 3-5 at home.

"If facilities have anything to do with it, we ought to win more ballgames,'' owner Jerry Jones said early Sunday evening. "But we're just going to have to look at what we're doing on the field and continue to try to get better.

"Frankly, I'm a little numb because the way we started, the good feeling, the uptick we had with Zeke coming back -- all of that, I thought that would rule the day.''

It didn't. The Cowboys must now prepare for a meaningless game to end the regular season before fading into another offseason.

"The future is bright,'' Prescott said after the team's Christmas Eve loss. "We are not giving up on this team, we are not giving up on ourselves. We're not giving up on anything.

"This year was tough. It didn't go our way. We know we are not making the postseason, but hopefully it will motivate us. It will be the motivation through this whole offseason that we will come back ready to go once we get back together.''

Prescott and his teammates made similar comments after that playoff loss to the Packers 12 months ago.

It sounded more convincing then.

Groundhog Day !