Sunday’s NFL roundup: Rookies extend Cowboys' win streak
Pittsburgh —Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott have little interest in the big picture. Yes, the rookies understand the Cowboys are on a historic roll. Just don’t expect them to start thinking about what it all means.
“I really don’t think about what’s normal and what’s abnormal,” Prescott said.
Maybe because what’s happening in Dallas might be the new normal.
Elliott ran for 114 yards and two touchdowns — both in the final two minutes — and turned a screen pass into an 83-yard score as the Cowboys pulled off a thrilling 35-30 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night for their eighth straight win.
Twice late in the fourth quarter Dallas (8-1) had the ball in Pittsburgh territory with a chance to run out the clock and attempt a game-winning field goal. Twice Elliott found himself running free into the end zone, the last a 32-yard sprint up the middle with 9 seconds left.
“It parted like the Red Sea,” Elliott said after pushing his season rushing total to an NFL-best 1,005 yards. “All I had to do was run.”
Prescott overcame an early fumble to pass for 319 yards and two scores and felt his jaw drop while watching Elliott score the third and final touchdown of a wild final 115 seconds.
“I was just shaking my head like ‘Wow,’” Prescott said. “We were just trying to get us in position to get in good field goal range and Zeke said otherwise.”
When safety Byron Jones pushed Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown out of bounds at the Dallas 20 on the final play, the Cowboys had perhaps their most impressive victory of an increasingly surprising season. Prescott also took another step toward stopping any discussion about the team’s starting quarterback.
Veteran Tony Romo practiced during the week and is nearly fully recovered from a broken bone in his back, but he spent his Sunday afternoon the same way he spent every other one this season: in street clothes watching Prescott do his thing.
Owner and general manager Jerry Jones declined to name Prescott the permanent starter in the giddy aftermath, though there appears to be no plans — and really no reason — to make a switch even though Jones anticipates Romo being the backup next week against Baltimore.
“I think the longer (Prescott) plays like this, the more we have a chance to have another win,” Jones said. “Everybody here wants to do one thing and that’s win. There’s nobody that would introduce any other issue or any other consideration than doing what it takes to win the game.”
Asked if he’s been around a team where two rookies have done so much so quickly, and the 74-year-old gleefully shook his head.
“Not two that are so in sync to where they’re feeding off each other and the team feeding off them,” Jones said. “I haven’t seen that.”
Seattle 31, (at) New England 24: It certainly won’t make up for the Super Bowl loss two seasons back, but the Seahawks’ goal-line stand lifted them to a 31-24 victory over the Patriots.
Tom Brady couldn’t connect with Rob Gronkowski on a fade pattern on fourth down as New England (7-2) failed four times from inside the 2 in the dying moments.
It was reminiscent of how the Seahawks (6-2-1) lost the 2015 Super Bowl when Malcolm Butler intercepted at the goal line to win the NFL title for the Patriots.
Doug Baldwin caught three touchdown passes, including a 15-yarder for the final margin. Strangely, Seattle went for 2 points and failed on the conversion, leaving the Patriots a chance to tie with a touchdown and an extra point kick.
But LeGarrette Blount, who earlier rushed for three touchdowns, couldn’t get into the end zone from close range, nor could Brady on a pair of sneaks.
(At) Washington 26, Minnesota 20: Sam Bradford grabbed his helmet with two hands and slammed it down on the sideline.
The Vikings quarterback had just been picked off late in what would become a 26-20 loss to the Washington Redskins on Sunday, Minnesota’s fourth consecutive defeat in a season that began with five consecutive victories and now is slipping away.
Afterward, Bradford was asked what he could have done better on this afternoon.
“Not throwing an interception in the fourth quarter would’ve helped,” Bradford replied.
Scoring a single point in the second half might have been useful, too.
“We’ve just got to be more consistent,” Bradford said.
Showing the sort of up-and-down play that encapsulates its season, Minnesota (5-4) trailed 14-0 less than a minute into the second quarter, put up three TDs in about 51/2 minutes at the end of the half to take the lead, and got outscored 12-0 the rest of the way.
(At) Tennessee 47, Green Bay 25: The Packers have lots of issues afterthey fell below .500 for the first time this late in a season since 2013.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said they couldn’t overcome falling behind 21-0 and by as much as 35-10 late in the first half before falling to 4-5.
“We understand how poorly we performed today,” McCarthy said. “As a team, we’re disappointed. We have higher standards than that. We have higher expectations of one another, so that’s what we’ll tap into and grab onto.”
That 25-point deficit was Green Bay’s largest in the first half of a game started by Rodgers. Now they’ve lost three straight and four of their past five. The previous time the Packers were below .500 this late in a season at 5-6-1 in 2013, but finished 8-7-1 to win the NFC North in 2013.
“We just didn’t execute as well as we wanted to on offense and obviously in the other two phases as well,” Rodgers said.
Denver 25, (at) New Orleans 23: Denver’s Justin Simmons used a perfectly timed leap over the offensive line to block an extra point and Will Parks ran it back 84 yards for a defensive 2-point conversion and a Broncos victory.
The decisive play came while the Superdome crowd was still celebrating Brandin Cooks’ twisting, 32-yard touchdown catch between two defenders. That put New Orleans (4-5) in position to take the lead with 1:28 left.
Simmons’ block of Wil Lutz’s kick was scooped up by Parks, who nearly stepped out of bounds as he raced down the left sideline.
Simmons says Denver calls the play, “Leaper,” and was “something we worked on all week.”
“It took me a few tries to actually time it up and make sure I could clear the center” in practice, Simmons said.
“We just picked up on their tendencies throughout the week watching film and executed the play.”
It was the first such play to provide the winning points in an NFL game. The rule was instituted last year.
The Broncos then recovered an onside kick and ran out the clock.
Kansas City 20, (at) Carolina 17: Marcus Peters stripped Kelvin Benjamin with 20 seconds left, Cairo Santos kicked a 37-yard field goal as time expired, and the Chiefs overcame a 17-point deficit.
The game was tied when Benjamin caught a pass from Cam Newton, and Peters ripped the ball from his arms. Santos’ fourth field goal of the day split the uprights, lifting the Chiefs (7-2) to their fifth straight victory and 17th win in their last 19 games.
Eric Berry also returned an interception 42 yards for a touchdown.
(At) Philadelphia 24, Atlanta 15: Ryan Mathews ran for 108 yards and two touchdowns, Carson Wentz threw for 231 yards and led the Eagles (5-4) to a comeback victory for the first time this season. Caleb Sturgis made three field goals, including a clutch kick from 48 yards to seal the win.
Matt Ryan threw a 76-yard touchdown pass to Taylor Gabriel in the fourth quarter to give Atlanta (6-4) a 15-13 lead, but Philadelphia answered.
Mathews ran in from the 5 and also converted the 2-point conversion for a 21-15 lead.
(At) Arizona 23, San Francisco 20: Chandler Catanzaro kicked a 34-yard field goal as time expired to lead the Cardinals to victory.
The 49ers (1-8) lost their eighth consecutive game despite a strong performance by Colin Kaepernick, who tied it at 20-20 on a 4-yard run with 1:55 to play.
That was enough time for Carson Palmer to gain redemption after three second-half turnovers, the last an interception by Gerald Hodges that led to the tying touchdown.
Miami 31, (at) San Diego 24: Kiko Alonso intercepted Philip Rivers’ pass and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown with 1:01 left for the Dolphins’ fourth straight victory.
The Dolphins (5-4) intercepted Rivers four times, all in the fourth quarter.
Alonso jumped in front of Tyrell Williams and outraced everybody into the end zone for the winning score.
Two plays into the ensuing drive, Rivers was intercepted again, by Tony Lippett (Michigan State), his second of the game.
(At) Tampa Bay 36, Chicago 10: Jameis Winston threw for 312 yards and two touchdowns against mistake-prone Chicago.
Winston threw for TDs of 10 yards to Cameron Brate and 43 yards to Freddie Martino, the latter set up by a bizarre highlight-reel play. The No. 1 pick in last year’s draft scrambled 23 yards backward into his end zone before avoiding a safety and launching a 39-yard completion to Mike Evans at the Chicago 38.
Martino, a former practice squad player with two career receptions, scored his first NFL touchdown after a delay-of-game penalty pushed the Buccaneers (4-5) back to the 43.
Two weeks after returning from injury, Jay Cutler threw two interceptions and fumbled twice, one resulting in a third-quarter safety.
Los Angeles 9, (at) N.Y. Jets 6: Alec Ogletree intercepted Bryce Petty with just under two minutes left. Petty made his first NFL start in place of injured Ryan Fitzpatrick.
After getting the ball with 2:55 remaining and down by three, Petty tried to lead the Jets (3-7) downfield.
But Petty’s pass to Quincy Enunwa was picked off by Ogletree and Enunwa tried to wrestle it away from the linebacker to no avail.
Greg Zuerlein kicked three field goals, including a go-ahead 34-yarder with 6:52 remaining, helping the Rams (4-5) end their four-game losing streak.