ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — A little more than 30 minutes before kickoff Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, the Dallas Cowboys clinched a playoff spot. Some three hours later, that was not something that mattered much to them.

A 31-10 loss to the Bills dropped the Cowboys to 10-4 and set them on a path that could see them need to win three playoff games on the road — barring losses by the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers in the final weeks — to get to Super Bowl LVIII.

“Didn’t pay attention to that. Don’t care, to be honest,” quarterback Dak Prescott said of qualifying for the postseason. “Obviously, coming into this thing, the beginning of the year, that’s one of the goals, but as we’ve gotten to the latter part of the year with the way we’ve been handling the season, we knew it was just a matter of time.

“So [we] can check it off, but we’ve got other things to focus on. I’ve continued to tell you all in different times this is about us putting our best performances out each and every week, and today we simply didn’t do that. So that’s where the concern and that’s where the focus is right now, much more than us getting to the playoffs.”

The Cowboys can still win the NFC East but will need the Eagles (10-3), who play the Seahawks Monday (8:15 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN), to lose two of their final four games while not dropping one of their own.

If the Cowboys and Eagles finish with the same record, Philadelphia could claim a division title — and at least one home playoff game — based on a better conference record. Because of the Cowboys’ Week 5 loss to the 49ers, the Cowboys need San Francisco to also lose two of its final three games in order for them to earn home-field advantage for the playoffs.

How stark is the difference between home and road?

The Cowboys are 7-0 at AT&T Stadium this season, averaging 39.9 points and 431.7 yards per game. They are 3-4 on the road, averaging 21.7 points and 304.6 yards per game. They have outscored opponents by 171 points at home and are minus-4 on the road. They are plus-10 in turnover margin at home and minus-1 on the road.

“It’s a gap,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “That was part of my message. We’ve played so well at home, and there’s just too big of a gap on the road games. We’re conscious of it.”

Said Micah Parsons: “Honestly, just unacceptable at this point. It’s no excuse for it. It’s mind-boggling. I don’t understand it, why we’re not playing well and why we’re not coming together on the road.”

In the Super Bowl era, the largest home/road point differential belongs to the 1982 Pittsburgh Steelers, in a strike-shortened season, at 20 points. At No. 2 are the 2014 Green Bay Packers (minus-18.8), coached by McCarthy. The 2023 Cowboys are third at minus-18.2 points per game.

“I think there’s normally a gap,” McCarthy said. “I know the last place I was at [Green Bay], I think the record would reflect that. But it’s about performance. You want to be hardened in these games. That’s why I go back to the schedule. Playing Philadelphia, Buffalo, Miami — I mean, this stretch is a great stretch for us to get ready for playoff football, but we’ve got to play better than this.”

On Sunday, the Bills ran for 266 yards on 49 carries, led by James Cook’s 179 yards and a touchdown. He also had a touchdown reception. Before Sunday, the most rushing yards the Cowboys had allowed this season was 170 in their loss to San Francisco.

Next week, the Cowboys are at the Miami Dolphins, who entered Week 15 with the second-ranked rush offense. Six days later, Dallas will play the Detroit Lions, who have the third-ranked run offense, at AT&T Stadium.

If they are to make a postseason run, they could play the Eagles, whose run offense ranks eighth, or the Niners, who are No. 4.

“It would be a stupid football team not to exploit some of the stuff you see that we have a problem with,” cornerback Jourdan Lewis said. “I think we’ll definitely get that in the future. But I’m positive we’ll get it fixed though.”

Prescott was held without a touchdown pass for just the second time this season. He entered with at least two touchdown passes in seven straight games. He also had his first interception in five games. The Cowboys converted just 5 of 13 third-down opportunities.

“We needed to put points on the board for our defense,” McCarthy said. “Our defense needed help and we didn’t give it to them.”

As a result, the Cowboys walked up the tunnel at Highmark Stadium solemnly and quietly Sunday evening, even though they became the first Dallas team to qualify for the postseason in three straight seasons in more than 20 years.

“We’ve got to get better on the road, and we’ve got to be road warriors throughout the playoffs now because of this,” Parsons said. “So it doesn’t matter unless we get better on the road.”

The last time the Cowboys had such a long playoff streak was 1991 through 1996, when they won the franchise’s last three Super Bowls. The last time the Cowboys won an NFC Championship Game away from home was in 1992 — at the dawn of the dynasty featuring Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith — against San Francisco at Candlestick Park.

These Cowboys might require their own signature road moment to get to a Super Bowl. They have two more road games left in the regular season, closing the campaign at the Washington Commanders.

“We’ve got to be much better on the road regardless of what’s in front of us and all the other conversations,” McCarthy said, “because there’s too big of a gap between the home and the road.”