Quiz: Dallas Cowboys Quarterbacks

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The following quiz asks ten questions about Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks.

Dallas 31, Washington 26: Not Even the Redskins Can Derail the Streak

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Sweeps are not exactly uncommon in the series between the Cowboys and Redskins. Dallas managed to sweep Washington in both 2011 and 2013, so it has not been that long.

Terrance Williams managed to get both feet down in the corner of the end zone to give Dallas its second touchdown of the day.

Terrance Williams managed to get both feet down in the corner of the end zone to give Dallas its second touchdown of the day.

It just seems, however, that when one team is having an especially great season, the other will come along and wreak havoc.

Washington lost one game in a strike-shortened 1982 season and eventually won Super Bowl XVII. The team to beat the Redskins? Dallas.

The Redskins won another Super Bowl after the 1991 season, going 14-2 in the process. One of the two losses was to the….Dallas Cowboys.

The Cowboys, of course, had their own dynasty, winning Super Bowl titles in 1992, 1993, and 1995. During those three seasons, the Cowboys lost a total of 14 games. Four of those losses came against the Redskins.

(Of course, I did not mention the 1977 season or the strike-shortened 1987 season when one of the teams swept the other. What I am addressing doesn’t always happen.)

This isn’t to say the Cowboys are necessarily on their way to a Super Bowl appearance or Super Bowl title, but if there was one team that could derail a Dallas streak, it would be Washington.

Didn’t happen.

The Cowboys took a lead on the opening drive of the game and never trailed. Washington managed to make it a game in the fourth quarter, but the Cowboys did what they have done throughout most of the season—take control of the ball at the end.

Ezekiel Elliott scored on a four-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, and the Dallas defense held the Redskins to field goals. The Cowboys scored a second touchdown on a ten-yard pass from Dak Prescott to Terrance Williams, and Dallas led 17-6 at the half.

Washington twice closed the gap to five points in the fourth quarter, only to watch the Cowboys respond with touchdowns. Washington scored with less than two minutes to narrow the gap to five points for a third time, but an onside kick attempt failed, and Dallas ran out the clock.

Elliott rushed for 97 yards with two touchdowns. Prescott only threw 24 passes on the day, completing 17 for 195 yards with the one touchdown.

The defense was not bad until the fourth quarter. Kirk Cousins completed 41 of 53 passes for 449 yards and three touchdowns. The Dallas secondary completely broke down on a 67-yard touchdown pass from Cousins to DeSean Jackson.

Thankfully, the Dallas offense responded once again, driving 53 yards on the ensuing drive.

The Cowboys play again in one week when they travel to Minnesota to face the Vikings.

Dallas 27, Baltimore 17: Just More Magic

The magic is becoming routine.

The first 20 minutes of Sunday’s game between Dallas and Baltimore gave Cowboys fans reason to think the magic of 2016 wouldn’t carry the team to a ninth straight win.

Dak Prescott looked off. Zeke Elliott couldn’t get anything going on the ground. The Dallas defense was giving up chunks of yards.

But with the Cowboys trailing 7-0 in the second quarter, the magic reemerged. The team faced a 1st-and-30 from its own 28 thanks to two holding penalties, but the team gained it all back in chunks.

A 12-yard run by Prescott.

A 12-yard pass to Dez Bryant.

A 41-yard pass to Brice Butler.

Cole Beasley just keeps coming up huge in 2016.

Cole Beasley just keeps coming up huge in 2016.

And three plays later, a touchdown pass to Cole Beasley.

The teams exchanged field goals to end the first half tied 10-10, but the momentum had swung in the Cowboys favor.

Dallas had three drives in the second half of 92 yards on 10 plays, 88 yards on 13 plays, and 72 yards on 13 plays. Time of possession on those three drives?

Time of possession on those three drives? 20:09 out of 30 minutes.

During those long drives, the Cowboys faced only five first downs. They converted four of them. Dallas nearly converted the fifth, but the Ravens stopped Elliott a yard short.

Dallas kicked a field goal on the next play to ice the game.

This is the first nine-game winning streak in franchise history. Elliott set the team mark with for rushing yards by a rookie with 1102 yards. Prescott currently has a passer rating of 108.2, which is better than all but one of Tony Romo’s season.

The Cowboys have a two-game lead over the New York Giants and face the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving Day.

Dallas 35, Pittsburgh 30: Far Out

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The Dallas Cowboys faced a so-called trap game right in the face when they traveled to Pittsburgh on Sunday. The Steelers seem to have a knack for winning at home, and the Cowboys have had trouble winning big games on the road such as this one.

Recall the last time Dallas played at Heinz Field in 2008.  The team was 8-4 and riding a three-game winning streak. Dallas managed a 13-3 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

The Steelers quickly erased the lead in the fourth quarter, followed by play where Deshea Townsend intercepted a Tony Romo pass and returned it for a touchdown to give Pittsburgh a 20-13 win.

Dallas managed only one more win that year and missed the playoffs.

That was, of course, then. Townsend has not played in the NFL since 2010, and Tony Romo was not going to be throwing the passes against Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh scored two touchdowns in the first quarter to take a lead but inexplicably went for two after both touchdowns. The Steelers led 12-3 late in the first.

Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott executed a screen pass on 2nd-and-18 with just seconds left in the first quarter. Fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott grabbed the screen, followed his blockers, and raced 83 yards for a touchdown.

Elliott...off...to...the...races....

Elliott…off…to…the…races….

That’s just what these rookies do—make the plays they need to make.

The teams exchanged field goals in the second and third quarters. Dallas finally took a 23-18 lead late in the third when Prescott found Dez Bryant open on a deep touchdown pass down the left sideline.

The teams relied on field goals no more. Pittsburgh scored a touchdown to take a one-point lead with 7:51 left, giving Dallas plenty of time to drive for a go-ahead field goal.

It appeared that the Cowboys were in a position to run down the clock to kick the game-winning field goal. Dallas managed a first down at the Pittsburgh 14 just before the two-minute warning. It looked as if the Steelers might have just allowed Elliott to run for a 14-yard touchdown, and the strategy actually could have worked. When Dallas missed the two-point conversion, the Cowboys had a 29-24 lead.

The Dallas defense had no answers. Pittsburgh moved the ball 75 yards on 5 plays, ending when Ben Roethlisberger faked a spike and hit Antonio Bryant on a 15-yard touchdown pass.

(Somewhere in the United States, a middle-aged blogger was yelling about Jason Garrett’s inability to manage the clock. The rant did not last long.)

Dallas had 42 seconds. The team had a rookie quarterback who needed to lead the team into field-goal range.

He did just that. Prescott hit three of four passes to move the ball into Pittsburgh territory. Although referees missed a facemask call on Cole Beasley, the refs did catch a facemask on Jason Witten. The penalty moved the ball to the Steeler 32.

Win the game on a Dan Bailey field goal? That would have been fine, but an even better result would have involved Elliott racing up the middle for 32 yards and a touchdown.

Bingo. Far out.

Dallas is now 8-1 and has tied the longest winning streak (eight games) in franchise history.

The Cowboys will attempt to win their first game in franchise history next Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.

***

Elliott’s touchdown reception in the first quarter was the fourth longest TD reception by a running back in team history. Here are the top five:

91 yards, Tony Dorsett, vs. Baltimore Colts (1978)

85 yards, Amos Marsh, vs. L.A. Rams (1962)

84 yards, Herschel Walker, vs. Philadelphia (1986)

83 yards, Ezekiel Elliott, vs. Pittsburgh (2016)

80 yards, Ron Springs, vs. Tampa Bay (1983)

Dallas 35, Cleveland 10: Dominant When Expected, for a Change

Jason Witten had 8 receptions for 134 yards and a touchdown against Cleveland.

The Dallas Cowboys have defeated opponents by at least 25 points in 72 games in franchise history, including the 35-10 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

It used to be a more common occurrence that the Cowboys would enter a game expected to win, and Dallas would put the game away early. No stress for fans—we could just enjoy watching.

Jason Witten caught eight passes for 134 yards and a touchdown against Cleveland.

Jason Witten caught eight passes for 134 yards and a touchdown against Cleveland.

The first 59 games when the Cowboys won by at least 25 points occurred between 1960 and 1999. Since 2000, however, Dallas has won by this margin only 14 times. More distressing in recent years is that during the Jason Garrett era, the Cowboys have won by that margin only five times: twice in 2011, twice in 2014, and now once in 2016.

(By comparison, New England has won games by 25 or more points 42 times since Tom Brady replaced Drew Bledsoe during the 2001 season. Since 2014 alone, the Patriots have won by 25 or more a total of eight times.)

So we haven’t been the Patriots. Against the Browns on Sunday, though, Dallas put away Cleveland in a manner more reminiscent of the way New England tends to win games.

Cleveland took an early 3-0 lead, but it did not last. Dak Prescott drove the Cowboys on a touchdown drive the ended when he hit Jason Witten on a nice-looking 26-yard touchdown pass. Dallas never trailed after that.

Dallas scored two touchdowns following two long drives in the second quarter. A touchdown run by Ezekiel Elliott and a touchdown pass from Prescott to Cole Beasley gave the Cowboys a dominant 21-3 lead.

Though the defense gave up some yards against the Browns, Cleveland could not keep up with Dallas in terms of points. The Browns did score near the end of the first half, so the Cowboys faced a minor test to see if they could put the game away early.

The Cowboys did just that. On the first play of the second half, Prescott hit Witten on a 35-yard pass play to move the ball into Cleveland territory. Elliott scored seven plays later when he ran around right end and dove with the ball over the marker.

The Dallas defense did not force a turnover, but the Dallas offense was so efficient that the team did not need turnovers. Consider these touchdown drives:

1st quarter: 10 plays, 75 yards, 5:53

2nd quarter: 9 plays, 69 yards, 4:48

2nd quarter: 9 plays, 67 yards, 4:39

3rd quarter: 7 plays, 75 yards, 3:30

3rd quarter: 9 plays, 64 yards, 5:30

The Cowboys are 7-1 for the first time since 2007, when they finished 13-3.  Dallas travels to Pittsburgh next week to face the Steelers.

Dallas 29, Philadelphia 23 (OT): Without Precedent

Prescott to Witten for the game-winner.

For a franchise that has had so many great starting quarterbacks, it would seem difficult for a rookie to accomplish more than all of them to open his career. Dak Prescott is doing just that.

  • It took Don Meredith three seasons before he started as many games as Dak Prescott, and Meredith’s starting record as a starter was a losing one until several years into his career.
  • Craig Morton was a good backup and a good starter, but his record as a starter during the first four years of his career was 3-2.
  • Roger Staubach famously had a 10-0 record in 1971, but he was also 29 years old at the time. During his first two seasons, Staubach went 3-1 in his few opportunities to start.

    Not quite Mount Rushmore. Close, though.

    Not quite Mount Rushmore. Close, though.

  • Danny White’s first year as a starter was good, but his 1980 Cowboys team was 7-3 after 10 games. Moreover, White was hardly new in 1980, given that he had played in the NFL for four years following one season in the World Football League.
  • Troy Aikman’s career infamously began horribly, as he compiled an 0-11 record as a starter in 1989.
  • Tony Romo’s first year as a starter had a somewhat magical feel to it, similar to how Dak Prescott’s rookie season seems to have felt. But though Romo was a feel-good story that season, his  record as a starter was only 6-4.

In seven starts in 2016, Prescott is now 6-1. His touchdown pass to Jason Witten in overtime gave the Cowboys their sixth consecutive win.

Prescott wasn’t even very good against the Eagles. He threw a poor interception in the end zone late in the second quarter. He missed other passes and had trouble avoiding the Philadelphia rush.

But when the game was truly on the line in overtime, Prescott was flawless. He completed all five of his pass attempts, and his run on 4th and 1 from the Eagle 28 kept the drive alive.

He looked a bit Romo-like on the game-winner. He dodged the rush, rolled to his left, and found Witten wide open in the middle of the end zone.

The win gives Dallas a two-game lead in the NFC East. Prescott has a passer rating of 99.6, which is better than Romo’s passer rating in all but two seasons.

Dez Bryant returned and was involved, catching four passes for 113 yards and a game-tying touchdown. Ezekiel Elliott nearly gained 100 yards, earning 96 on 22 carries.

The news today, though, was not all rosy. Some reports have speculated that Elliott could face a suspension for domestic violence. Reports are suggesting that Elliott’s suspension could be six games if the league finds evidence, but the reports are not clear whether this punishment is imminent.

Moreover, Dallas has lost both Barry Church and Morris Claiborne to injury. The Dallas secondary has been far better than anyone expected, and that is thanks largely to Claiborne.

For now, though, the win feels good. Dallas travels to Cleveland to face the winless Browns next Sunday.

Dallas 30, Green Bay 16: It’s Looking Memorable

Just feed the young man the ball.

Since the Cowboys won Super Bowl XXX following the 1995 season, the team has started with a 5-1 record only four times—2003, 2007, 2014, and 2016. Dallas wound up in the playoffs during those three previous seasons, and the Cowboys certainly looked like a playoff team in a 30-16 win at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.

Just feed the young man the ball.

Just feed the young man the ball.

Zeke Elliott has been simply awesome. He gained 157 yards on 28 carries, giving him 130 or more yards in four consecutive games. He has 703 yards on 137 carries, giving him a 5.13 yard-per-carry average.

He not only makes highlight-reel runs, but he has been strong when the Cowboys have needed to grind it out on the ground at the end of the game. For example, when the Cowboys gave up a touchdown with just under seven minutes left, Dallas led 27-16 and needed to run the clock down.

Dallas managed one first down, then saw Elliott burst up the middle for a 29-yard run to move the ball deep into Green Bay territory. The play helped to set up the Cowboys’ last field goal.

The storyline of the game continued to focus on the play of Dak Prescott, who was again very good. Despite turning the ball over a couple of times, including his first interception, he maintained his composure and threw three touchdown passes.

Prescott led perhaps the most significant drive at the end of the first half.

Dallas had a 10-6 lead but was making mistakes on both sides of the ball. The defense force the Packers to punt with 1:39 remaining in the half, and Green Bay downed the ball at the Dallas 2.

Two runs by Elliott set up a 3rd-and-1 with 45 seconds left. Had Dallas failed to convert, Green Bay would have had plenty of time to drive for another field goal attempt.

Instead, Lucky Whitehead took a reverse 26 yards to move the ball to the Dallas 38. One play later, Prescott hit Terrance Williams down the right sideline for 42 yards. On the following play, Prescott hit Brice Butler for a 20-yard touchdown, giving Dallas a 17-6 halftime lead.

The Dallas defense has continued to play well. The Cowboys forced four turnovers, including three in the second half. One of those turnovers occurred on a 1st-and-goal from the Dallas 1.

One of those turnovers occurred on a 1st-and-goal from the Dallas 1. Aaron Rodgers tried to run a quarterback draw, but he was stuffed and fumbled the ball. Instead of a touchdown that would have cut the Dallas lead to 17-13, the Cowboys continued to have a two-score advantage.

Prescott did make a mistake and threw an interception, but the Dallas defense held the Packers to a field goal. The Dallas offense responded with a 75-yard touchdown drive that ended with a touchdown pass from Prescott to Cole Beasley.

The Cowboys have a bye, followed by a home game against Philadelphia on October 30.

Dallas 28, Cincinnati 14: Keep Romo on Ice

Jerry Jones is one of the few people who want to see Tony Romo start instead of Dak Prescott.

Jerry Jones continues to channel his inner Al Davis and has pronounced that Tony Romo will be the starter when healthy.

After the Cowboys destroyed the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday with rookie Dak Prescott leading the way again, good luck finding more than a handful of fans who agree with Jerry.

Prescott was effective once again, completing 18 of 24 passes for 227 yards and a touchdown. Prescott also added a touchdown run, giving him three this season.

But it was fellow rookie Zeke Elliott who continues to impress. He gained 134 on only 15 carries, scoring two touchdowns on the day.

Other rookie running backs have gained more than 100 yards in three different games, which is what Elliott has done in 2016. Here’s the difference—Elliott has done it in three consecutive games.

He is on pace to rush for 1,747 yards. Only one other rookie running back has gained more than 1,000 yards for the Cowboys, and that was Tony Dorsett in 1977 (14 games). At Elliott’s current rate, he would surpass 1,007 yards sometime around the team’s Thanksgiving Day game against Washington.

The Dallas offense was effective from the outset. The team drove 64 yards on seven plays to open the game, and Elliott’s first touchdown run gave Dallas a 7-0 lead. Prescott’s TD run early in the second quarter capped off an 89-yard drive, giving Dallas a 14-0 lead.

Now that's a hole.

Now that’s a hole.

In plenty of previous games, the Cowboys would have trouble putting an opponent away. Not on Sunday. Dallas moved the ball 80 yards on eight plays midway through the second quarter, and Prescott’s touchdown pass to Cole Beasley gave Dallas a 21-0 lead.

The Bengals drove into Dallas territory to open the second half, but kicker Mike Nugent missed a 50-yard field goal attempt.

On the next play, Elliott raced up a huge hole, going 60 yards for a touchdown to give the Cowboys an insurmountable 28-0 lead.

Morris Claiborne continued to play well. He was principally responsible for holding A.J. Green to four receptions for 50 yards.

The rest of the defense was also effective, sacking Andy Dalton four times and holding the Bengals to 345 total yards.

Dallas has a tough game next week as the Cowboys travel to Green Bay to face the Packers.

Dallas 24, San Francisco 17: These Kids Don’t Know Mediocrity

Morris Claiborne recorded his first interception in two seasons.

The Dallas Cowboys looked as if they were headed for a 2-2 start.

That would just make sense for a franchise that has mastered mediocrity. The two-game winning streak would be forgotten after a failed trip to San Francisco.

With the 49ers ahead 14-0 in the second quarter, the Cowboys opened a drive with a holding penalty. It looked like another three-and-out.

But then rookie quarterback Dak Prescott threw a screen to rookie running back Zeke Elliott, who took the ball 19 yards to put the Cowboys in position to make a first down.

Four plays later, the Cowboys faced a 3rd-and-6, and the 49ers managed to sack Prescott. But referees called defensive back Jaquiski Tartt for unnecessary roughness on a very questionable call, giving the Cowboys life.

Prescott capped off the drive with a touchdown pass to Terrance Williams, giving the Cowboys hope.

Brice Butler caught this four-yard touchdown pass, tying the game at 14 in the second quarter.

Brice Butler caught this four-yard touchdown pass, tying the game at 14 in the second quarter.

By the end of the first half, the game was tied thanks to a touchdown drive that ended when Prescott hit Brice Butler on a four-yard touchdown pass.

The 49ers regained the lead in the third quarter, but the Cowboys took control. Late in the third quarter, Elliott capped off a 10-play, 78-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run. The Cowboys would not relinquish the lead for the rest of the game.

Morris Claiborne picked off a deep pass thrown by Blaine Gabbert, and Claiborne returned it to the Dallas 34. The Cowboys then drove the ball deep into San Francisco territory. A Dan Bailey field goal with 4:11 left in the game increased the lead to 7, but the Dallas defense needed to hold the 49ers.

The Dallas defense did just that. San Francisco moved the ball into Dallas territory, but with less than two minutes left, the 49ers needed to convert a 4th-and-6. Gabbert completed a three-yard pass to Torrey Smith, but Claiborne made the stop short of the sticks.

Dallas was able to make a first down thanks to a 47-yard catch-and-run by Cole Beasley.

The Cowboys have matched their 3-1 start from 2014. Elliott has looked even more effective than DeMarco Murray did two years ago. Elliott gained 138 yards on 23 carries. Prescott finished with a passer rating of 114.7 after throwing two touchdown passes.

 

Dallas 31, Chicago 17: Dak, Zeke, and the New Age of the Youngsters

Ezekiel Elliott easily hurdled this Chicago defender on Sunday night.

Hard not to think of Star Wars when thinking of the names Dak and Zeke. Also hard not to be excited about the future with these youngsters playing so well.

Ezekiel Elliott easily hurdled this Chicago defender on Sunday night.

Ezekiel Elliott easily hurdled this Chicago defender on Sunday night.

Zeke Elliott rushed for 140 yards on 30 carries. He frequently gave the Cowboys second-and-short with good runs on first down, and he provided one of the big highlights of the night when he hurdled over defensive back Chris Prosinski.

Dak Prescott continued to show that Tony Romo perhaps should not be the franchise quarterback moving forward. Prescott completed 19 of 24 passes for 248 yards with a touchdown. His TD pass to Dez Bryant with 9:20 remaining in the fourth quarter sealed the 31-17 win for Dallas.

The win marked the first back-to-back victories for the Cowboys since the team opened the 2015 season with two wins.  A win over the 49ers next week would give Dallas its longest win streak since 2014, when the Cowboys ended their regular season by winning four straight, followed by a playoff win.

The Cowboys have had good early success all year, and Sunday night was no different. The Cowboys took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter thanks to a touchdown run by Prescott and a Dan Bailey field goal.

By the end of the first half, touchdown runs by Lance Dunbar and Alfred Morris made the game look like a blowout. Dallas led 24-3.

The win could have been more decisive. The Cowboys opened their second half by shutting down the Bears. On the ensuing offensive drive, Prescott hit Terrance Williams over the middle, and Williams took the ball 47 yards to inside the Chicago 20.

But Williams fumbled the ball, and Chicago recovered. The Bears drove back downfield and scored, cutting the Dallas lead to 24-10.

The Cowboys had some trouble putting the Bears away from that point. Nevertheless, Chicago could get no closer than 14 points, and Dallas came away with the 31-17 win.

***

Elliott’s 140 yards ranks eighth in team history for a rookie. DeMarco Murray set a high bar in that area, gaining 253 yards against the Rams in 2011. Tony Dorsett also surpassed 200 yards as a rookie, gaining 206 against the Eagles in 1977.

Here is a look: