The Cowboys’ week began with team owner Jerry Jones defending Coach Mike McCarthy after unnamed Dallas players questioned the latter’s leadership. It ended with McCarthy chiding his players for not doing enough to defend one of their own, Andy Dalton.

The Cowboys’ starting quarterback in the wake of Dak Prescott’s season-ending injury, Dalton might now miss time after reportedly suffering a concussion Sunday. As he was sliding to the ground to end a third-quarter scramble deep in his own territory, Dalton was hit hard in the head by Washington linebacker Jon Bostic, who was ejected.

As Dalton remained on the turf, several of his offensive linemen gathered around him while medical personnel came out to check on the 32-year-old. However, while one of the Dallas players appeared to gesture in Bostic’s direction, none of the Cowboys made an overt effort to confront the Washington linebacker.

“We speak all the time about playing for one another, protecting one another,” McCarthy told reporters after the game, a 25-3 Washington win. “It definitely was not the response you would expect.”

Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott opined that it would have been “fair” for one of his teammates to have reacted more aggressively to Bostic’s hit, but he said the Cowboys had to be “careful because we’re already down a bunch of guys.”

“If you go in there and throw a punch, you get kicked out the game, you can’t help the team from the sideline,” Elliott added. “You can’t help the team from the locker room. So we’ve got to find a way to not cross that line but still got to protect our guys.”

NBC analyst Rodney Harrison, a hard-hitting safety during his playing days, lambasted the Cowboys for their response, or lack thereof.

“Get knocked out, lay on the ground and no one comes to his defense,” Harrison said on the air (via cincinnati.com). “I just don’t understand it.

“I look at the culture of this team, and they’re soft,” Harrison continued. “I mean, you see all those linemen — nobody says anything to Bostic. How could you allow your quarterback to get his head knocked off and no one comes to his defense? But it speaks to the culture. It speaks to the selfishness of the Cowboys. And the Cowboys flat-out quit today.”

Dalton was reportedly able to fly from Washington back to Dallas with his team, but he will need to clear the NFL’s concussion protocol before he can retake the field. He was replaced Sunday by Ben DiNucci, a rookie out of James Madison who said that if he is called upon to start in Week 8, “I’ll be the first one in the building tomorrow and the last one to leave.”

“I’ve learned more from sitting in a room with Dak and Andy the last two months than I have playing the last eight years,” DiNucci added.

It remains to be seen what kind of punishment, if any, Bostic receives from the NFL. Dallas wide receiver Amari Cooper said it looked like a dirty hit to him because Dalton “was sliding and it was obvious. … That player could have easily avoided doing what he did.”

From the perspective of Washington Coach Ron Rivera, Bostic needed to be “smarter than that,” because his team was about to force the Cowboys off the field and instead handed them a first down.

“We could’ve gotten the ball back sooner,” said Rivera, who reportedly apologized to McCarthy for the hit. “Jon’s a savvy, veteran guy, and that’s a mistake he shouldn’t make. It’s unfortunate.

“Fortunately enough for us,” Rivera continued, “it didn’t hurt us.”

While the result of the game left both teams with 2-5 records, much more was expected this season of Dallas than of Washington, and McCarthy could be getting close to the hot seat even though he is in his first season with the team and now might be down to his third-string quarterback.

“We’ve been hit with a number of challenges that we are just not pushing through right now,” McCarthy said. “So we need to continue to work, and I believe we’ll push through the other end.”

McCarthy may still have some work to do to win over his players, to judge from anonymous comments made public Tuesday by NFL Network. Some Dallas players were quoted at the time as saying of their coaching staff that it was “totally unprepared. They don’t teach. They don’t have any sense of adjusting on the fly” and that “they just aren’t good at their jobs.”

After those quotes emerged, Jones said Tuesday he was “really not concerned about” his head coach. Jones praised the experience of McCarthy, who led the 2010 Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl win, and claimed the 56-year-old coach knows “how to adjust.”

McCarthy’s team appears to have plenty of areas in need of adjustment, considering that it has been on a record-setting pace of points allowed and on Sunday became the first in NFL history to give up at least 20 points in the first halves of six straight games (per NFL on CBS). The top item on his agenda, though, might be increasing morale and getting his team to compete with a greater edge.

“We need more belief and more high spirits around this team, and really more fight,” Dallas defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence said. “That’s really, I feel like, one of our weaknesses. We need to build a stronger backbone, fight.”

Many observers on Sunday felt that a good time for the Cowboys to show some fight was right after their quarterback took a damaging blow to the head, but the team chose otherwise.

“I do wish we would’ve acted stronger,” Elliott said.