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Dallas 29, Philadelphia 23 (OT): Without Precedent

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

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 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

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

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:

Cowboys vs. Bears, 1962: Amos Bullocks and Billy Wade Put on a Show

In the history of the Dallas Cowboys, only nine opposing quarterbacks have thrown for more than 400 yards in a single game. Five of those games have taken place since 2011, with three of those games occurring in 2013. Before 2011, the previous games took place in 1985, 1991, and 1998.

And 1962.

QB Billy Wade was the only quarterback to throw for more than 400 yards against the Cowboys in the first 25 years of the Cowboys' existence.

QB Billy Wade was the only quarterback to throw for more than 400 yards against the Cowboys in the first 25 years of the Cowboys’ existence.

Heading into a week 10 matchup with the Chicago Bears on November 18, 1962, the Cowboys were 4-4-1. It appeared as if the Cowboys could be headed towards their first winning season, but Dallas was struggling by the time the Bears arrived.

The Bears were good in 1962, but they were one year away from an NFL Championship. Their quarterback was veteran Billy Wade, who had spent seven years with the Rams before coming to Chicago. Before November 18, 1962, he had never thrown for more than 356 yards in a game, and he had surpassed 300 yards only five times.

The 1962 Cowboys did not have the Doomsday Defense. One week earlier, Y.A. Tittle had torched the defense for 315 yards in a 41-10 win for the Giants.

Few showed up to the Cotton Bowl to watch the Cowboys face the Bears. On a chilly day, only 12,692 attended. Those who did arrive saw a barn-burner.

The lead changed six times. The Cowboys’ Amos Bullocks scored two touchdowns, including a 22-yard reception in the second quarter and a 73-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. His touchdown run gave Dallas a 33-24 lead.

As DMN writer Walter Robertson stated, “If you had just watched on the plays the Cowboys scored their 33 points, you’d have thought they should have won with more ease than the Dallas County Republicans.”

Not easy, as it turns out. Wade led a comeback, and kicker Roger LeClerc’s 15-yard field goal gave the Bears a 34-33 win.

Sam Baker's extra point attempt against the Bears in 1962 was blocked. The Bears ended up winning by one point.

Sam Baker’s extra point attempt against the Bears in 1962 was blocked. The Bears ended up winning by one point.

It not only marked the first 400-yard passing performance by an opposing QB in the Cowboys’ history, but it marked only the second time that an opposing team had gained 500 or more total yards against the Cowboys.

The first was the Rams in 1960. One of three QBs to play for the Rams that day? Billy Wade.


Dallas 27, Washington 23: Thanks, Unsung Heroes

The storyline heading into today’s game between the Cowboys and Redskins continued to focus on rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. For some time, it appeared the rookies might be the heroes.

Elliott scored on a one-yard run in the first quarter to give Dallas a 10-0 lead. The Cowboys were unable to hold the lead, but Prescott put the Cowboys ahead in the third quarter with a six-yard touchdown run of his own.

However, as the game progressed, it looked as if the rookies’ efforts would not be enough. The Dallas defense struggled to contain the Redskins in second and third quarters, and Dallas leads of 10-0 and 20-17 vanished.

With the game tied at 20, Elliott fumbled. Washington drove for a field goal at the end of the third quarter.

The Dallas offense then struggled, going three-and-out. Washington responded with a 57-yard pass from Kirk Cousins to Josh Doctson. Byron Jones raced back to tackle Doctson and prevent the touchdown, but it appeared the Redskins had all the momentum.

On third-and-goal from the Dallas 6, Cousins tried to get the ball over the middle to Pierre Garcon. But Barry Church stepped in front of the pass and picked it off.

Barry Church picked off Kirk Cousins in the end zone, ending a key drive in the fourth quarter.

Barry Church picked off Kirk Cousins in the end zone, ending a key drive in the fourth quarter.

Yes, the team that couldn’t get a turnover to save its life in 2015 forced a critical turnover in the fourth quarter.

Prescott looked sharp on the ensuing drive, hitting Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley to move the ball near midfield.

Elliott did not look sharp. He lost four yards on one play during the drive, then fumbled yet again. Thankfully, Doug Free landed on the ball, but Elliott was done for the day.

The Cowboys turned to former Redskin Alfred Morris, who scored from four yards out to give Dallas a 27-23 lead.

Alfred Morris scored the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Alfred Morris scored the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Washington had plenty of time. The Redskins took the ball at their own 25 with 4:45 remaining. They moved the ball to their own 44 but faced a 3rd and 1.

On third down, Justin Durant and Sean Lee made a nice play by stopping Chris Thompson.  The Redskins decided to go for it, but Durant stepped in front of the pass to kill the Washington drive.

Dallas was unable to move the ball, but Washington had to exhaust its timeouts. The Redskins drove the ball to the Dallas 36, but a penalty led to a ten-second runoff, and a last-second Hail Mary failed.

Church and Durant were big names throughout the game, but they came up huge when it mattered the most.

Elliott was largely effective until he had his fumble problems late. He rushed for 83 yards on 21 carries. Bryant came to life, gaining 102 yards on seven receptions.

Prescott was even better than he was last week. He completed 22 of 30 passes for 292 yards with a 103.8 rating.

Dallas hosts the Bears on Sunday Night Football next week.

Ezekiel Elliott’s First NFL Game: Some Comparisons


Ezekiel Elliott was not great against the New York Giants, but few rookie running backs playing in their first NFL games have had great first games.

The rookie running back in Dallas with the most rushing yards in his first NFL game was Derrick Lassic. He gained 75 yards on 16 carries while filling in for Emmitt Smith in 1993.

Elliott’s 20 attempts against the Giants were more than any other rookie in his first NFL game. Calvin Hill had 18 attempts in his first game in 1969.

The most notable Cowboy running backs had lackluster debuts. Examples—Emmitt Smith (2 attempts, 2 yards in 1990); Tony Dorsett (4 attempts, 11 yards in 1977); Don Perkins (4 attempts, 24 yards in 1961); DeMarco Murray (2 attempts, 0 yards).

Elliott is among six rookie running backs in team history to score a touchdown in his first NFL game. The others were Herschel Walker in 1986, Felix Jones in 2008, ReShard Lee in 2004, Robert Newhouse in 1972, and Dan Reeves in 1965.

Some other rookie running backs in NFL history have had exceptional debuts. For example, William Andrews of the Falcons gained 167 yards on 30 carries against the Saints in 1979. Current Cowboy Alfred Morris also had a big debut, gaining 96 yards on 28 attempts with two touchdowns against the Saints in 2012.

N.Y. Giants 20, Dallas 19: Non-Rookie Mistakes

The 2015 Dallas Cowboys opened their season with an amazing, come-from-behind win over the Giants at AT&T Stadium. Tony Romo led a final, nail-biting drive where he relied on Lance Dunbar, Terrance Williams, and Jason Witten to move the ball 72 yards in 1:29 for the winning touchdown.

The Cowboys opened their 2016 season facing a somewhat similar situation, except that the quarterback was a rookie named Dak Prescott.

Down 20-19, Prescott and the Cowboys got the ball at their own 20 and no timeouts. Prescott could have begun his career with a defining moment by moving the ball into field goal range.

Other than Prescott, the names were the same—Dunbar, Witten, and Williams, along with slot receiver Cole Beasley.

Beasley made a nice catch on 3rd-and-15, giving Dallas the ball at the Dallas 46. The team would not, however, move any further.

A pass attempt to Witten fell incomplete, leading to a third-down attempt to Williams, who caught the ball near the right sideline but did not head out of bounds. As the picture below appears to show, Williams caught the ball with 10 seconds left and should have been able to make it to the boundary. He instead tucked the ball and ran up field.

Terrance Williams could have cut to his right to try to stop the clock. Or he could have tucked the ball to run up field, virtually guaranteeing that the clock would expire.

Terrance Williams could have cut to his right to try to stop the clock. Or he could have tucked the ball to run upfield, virtually guaranteeing that the clock would expire.

The Cowboys did not have a timeout left, ending the game. For the first time in eight season-openers against the Giants, Dallas lost.

Prescott didn’t have a spectacular game, completing 25 of 45 passes for 227 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions and a 69.4 passer rating. It appeared that he had thrown a touchdown pass to Dez Bryant, but replays showed that Bryant bobbled the ball in the end zone before falling out of bounds. Bryant finished with only one catch for eight yards.

Ezekiel Elliott had a nice touchdown run, but he otherwise had a hard time finding room. He carried the ball 20 times for 51 yards, with his longest run only going eight yards.

The diagram showing the path to Ezekiel Elliott's first NFL touchdown.

The diagram showing the path to Ezekiel Elliott’s first NFL touchdown.

The Cowboys were able to keep the ball out of the Giants’ hands for the most part. The Cowboys held the ball for 36:43 and outgained the Giants, 328-316.

The Dallas defense, however, had trouble stopping the Giants on runs right up the gut. New York gained 113 yards on 24 carries for an average of 4.7 yards per carry. Dallas averaged 3.4 yards per carry.

Brandon Carr recorded his first interception since 2013, and his pick set up the Elliott touchdown run. The Cowboys were able to hold Eli Manning to 207 yards, and Orlando Scandrick and Benson Mayowa recorded sacks.

On the other hand, Scandrick was unable to contain Odell Beckham on a 45-yard completion that set up the Giants’ first touchdown. Manning ended up throwing three touchdown passes.

The Cowboys travel to Washington to face the Redskins next Sunday.

Know Your 2016 Dallas Cowboys and Their Uniform Numbers


As we wait for the 2016 season to open, here is a quiz about uniform numbers.

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