Sunday's NFL: Prescott’s career day leads Cowboys to win over Giants
Arlington, Texas — Ezekiel Elliott’s workload in the opener didn’t matter much after the Dallas Cowboys running back missed the entire preseason in a holdout.
Now there are more questions about how soon quarterback Dak Prescott will get the big payday his backfield mate enjoyed just four days before the season started.
Prescott tied his career high with four touchdown passes while throwing for 405 yards, and the Cowboys rolled up 494 yards under new play-caller Kellen Moore in a 35-17 win over Eli Manning and the New York Giants on Sunday.
Saquon Barkley ran 59 yards on his first carry of the season, setting up Eli Manning’s touchdown pass for a 7-0 lead. But the Giants simply couldn’t keep up with a Dallas offense anxious to see what could happen at full strength.
As expected, Elliott didn’t seem to be in peak form after spending almost all of training camp trying to stay in shape in Mexico while waiting for the $90 million, six-year contract extension that was settled on the morning of the first full workout of the regular season.
Elliott, a two-time NFL rushing champion, did find a seam for a 10-yard touchdown to put the Cowboys up 35-10 late in the third quarter. Elliott finished with 53 yards on 13 carries.
“We wanted to be mindful of how many reps we gave him in the game,” said coach Jason Garrett, noting he thought it was more than 30, including one catch for 10 yards. “I think now over time, he’ll practice a little more, get a little more game experience, he’ll get more and more comfortable.”
This going-away win was all about Prescott in his second career 400-yard game
Prescott’s representatives and the Cowboys were still trying to reach a deal on a new contract in the days before the opener, but now the issue will linger into the season. Perhaps the NFL’s best bargain ($2 million salary in the final year of his rookie deal) isn’t getting any less expensive.
Prescott, the 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, thrived in his debut in Moore’s offense, making several perfect throws on his way to a perfect passer rating of 158.3.
Prescott completed 25 of 32 passes without an interception, finding seven different receivers while two of them had 100-yard days: Michael Gallup (seven catches for 158 yards) and Amari Cooper (six for 106).
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(At) New England 33, Pittsburgh 3: A day after the acquiring former Pittsburghs malcontent Antonio Brown, defending Super Bowl champions New England showed it might not even need him, getting 341 yards and three touchdown passes from 42-year-old Tom Brady.
Phillip Dorsett caught two touchdown passes, including a 58-yard score, and Josh Gordon – another disgruntled receiver who wore out his welcome elsewhere – caught one TD pass. On the night New England unveiled its sixth NFL championship banner, Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman caught six passes for 83 yards and also completed a throw to help the Patriots begin their quest for back-to-back titles.
Facing the last team to beat them, the Patriots opened a 20-0 lead before Pittsburgh kicked a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 1 with 10:17 left in the third quarter. Brady responded with a 58-yard touchdown pass to Dorsett and a 27-3 lead. Dorsett, who will be moving down the depth chart Monday when the Patriots make Brown’s signing official, had four catches for 95 yards and the first multi-score game of his career.
Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger completed 27 of 47 passes for 277 yards and an interception.
Tennessee 43, (at) Cleveland 13: Marcus Mariota threw three touchdown passes – one a stunning 75-yarder to big back Derrick Henry – and the Browns fell flat on their faces in their highly anticipated opener.
Titans tight end Delanie Walker had two TD catches in the fourth, and Tennessee’s defensive backs intercepted Baker Mayfield three times in the fourth period.
Cameron Wake sacked Mayfield in the end zone for a safety in the first half, and the Titans dominated the undisciplined and perhaps overblown Browns, picked by some to contend for a Super Bowl title after adding Odell Beckham Jr. The Browns committed 18 penalties for 182 yards, a poor reflection on first-year coach Freddie Kitchens. Cleveland also had a player ejected for kicking a Titans defender.
The Browns are 1-19-1 in openers since 1999.
Mariota finished 14 of 24 for 248 yards, completing his two scoring passes to Walker in a span of 3:29 of the final quarter when the Titans opened a 23-point lead.
Baltimore 59, (at) Miami 10: Lamar Jackson looked unstoppable from the start and tied a franchise record with five touchdown passes to help the Ravens humiliate the Dolphins and rookie coach Brian Flores.
The Ravens set a franchise record for points in the first half, and an NFL record for points in the first half of an opener, taking a 42-10 lead at the break. They broke franchise marks for points and total yards with 643.
Baltimore gained 49 yards on the first play – a run by newcomer Mark Ingram – and hardly slowed down after that. Jeers began when the score reached 14-0, evidence of the impending avalanche already obvious.
Jackson’s first nine passes, all completions, went for 204 yards and four touchdowns. That included scores of 47 and 83 yards to first-round draft pick Marquise Brown in the first 11 minutes.
Jackson’s other touchdown passes covered 33 yards to Willie Snead, 5 yards to rookie Miles Boykin and 1 yard to fullback Patrick Ricard. The performance was a big step forward for the Ravens in their transition from Joe Flacco to Jackson, who went 17 for 20 for 324 yards.
Flores can take small consolation that a drubbing by Baltimore is nothing new. The Ravens have outscored the Dolphins 137-16 in three meetings since 2016.
L.A. Rams 30, (at) Carolina 27: Malcolm Brown ran for a pair of scores and Jared Goff threw for 186 yards and a touchdown.
Todd Gurley started and ran for 97 yards on 14 carries after being limited to 8 yards rushing on five carries in the first half. Brown was the primary ball carrier for the better part of three quarters and finished with 53 yards on 11 carries.
Christian McCaffrey led the Panthers with 209 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns.
It was a rough day for Cam Newton, playing in his first regular-season game since Dec. 17, when a lingering shoulder injury forced him to the sideline. Newton completed 25 of 38 passes for 239 yards, but had a costly backward pass that resulted in a fumble deep in Carolina territory, and a fourth-quarter interception. He rarely threw deep downfield.
It’s pretty clear the Rams weren’t going to overload Gurley in the first game of the season. Gurley, who suffered from knee soreness late last season, split carries with Brown. Brown, a fourth-year running back, saw all of the goal-line carries, including scoring on a 5-yard touchdown run .
(At) Philadelphia 32, Washington 27: Carson Wentz threw a pair of deep touchdown passes to DeSean Jackson, and the Eagles overcame a 17-point deficit. Wentz was 28 of 39 for 313 yards and three TDs in his first game since Week 14 after not taking a snap in the preseason. Jackson had eight catches for 154 yards. The Eagles racked up 436 total yards.
Case Keenum threw for 380 yards and three TDs, helping Washington build a 17-0 lead in his first start with his fourth team in four seasons. But Philadelphia’s high-powered offense took over and the defense settled down after a sloppy start.
Playing his first game back in Philadelphia since former Eagles coach Chip Kelly cut him following his third Pro Bowl season in 2013, Jackson picked up where he left off six years ago and showed no signs of slowing down at age 32.
Jackson blew past the defense on a third-and-10 in the third quarter, caught Wentz’s pass inside the 10 and strolled into the end zone to give the Eagles a 21-20 lead. The 53-yard TD reception was Jackson’s second of 50-plus yards in the game and the 31st of his career. Only Hall of Famer Jerry Rice had more at 36.
Zach Ertz caught a 26-yard pass to set up Alshon Jeffery’s first career rushing score on the first play of the fourth quarter. Jeffery caught a backward pass from Wentz and fought his way into the end zone. Darren Sproles ran in for the 2-point conversion to extend the lead to 29-20.
(At) Minnesota 28, Atlanta 12: Anthony Harris highlighted a thorough thrashing by Minnesota’s defense with two interceptions of Matt Ryan and a fumble recovery.
Dalvin Cook carried a revived running attack, while Eric Wilson recovered his own blocked punt at the Atlanta 21-yard line on the first possession of the game, and the Vikings were well on their way to winning a fourth straight opener. Including the blocked punt, their first in five years, they turned all four Falcons turnovers into touchdowns.
Kirk Cousins (Michigan State) connected with Adam Thielen for a 23-yard score to finish the short first drive and crossed the goal line on a 1-yard sneak in the second quarter to cap a 79-yard march to give Minnesota a 21-0 lead. Cousins went 8 for 10 for 98 yards, all career lows for games he started, but there was no need for more.
Cook had 21 rushes for 111 yards and two touchdowns behind the new zone-blocking scheme influenced heavily by new offensive adviser Gary Kubiak, the former Houston and Denver head coach. Cousins averaged 38 attempts per game in his first season with the Vikings, and much to head coach Mike Zimmer’s chagrin they finished with the third-fewest rushing yards in the NFL. The new system directed by offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski and the favorable field position shifted the numbers hard the other way.
Ryan played more like a rookie than a 2016 league MVP beginning his 12th NFL season, unable to find his footing all afternoon in the face of a fierce pass rush that racked up four sacks.
Buffalo 17, (at) N.Y. Jets 16: Josh Allen threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to John Brown with 3 minutes left, and the Bills rallied from a 16-point second-half deficit.
After struggling to get much going on offense, the Bills finally were able to move the ball after Jets middle linebacker C.J. Mosley left with a groin injury.
Buffalo also took advantage of kicking woes by the Jets as Kaare Vedvik, claimed last week off waivers from Minnesota, missed an extra point and a 45-yard field goal and ended up being the difference in the game.
Le’Veon Bell (Michigan State) caught a touchdown pass and had a 2-point conversion in his Jets debut, and Jamison Crowder had 14 catches for 99 yards in his first game with his new team – but Adam Gase’s offense otherwise sputtered behind a line that gave Sam Darnold little time to throw.
Allen finished 24-of-37 for 254 yards and a touchdown, and had one of his two interceptions returned 17 yards for a touchdown by Mosley. Brown caught seven passes for 123 yards.
Darnold was 28 of 41 for 175 yards and the TD to Bell, who ran for 60 yards on 17 carries. The running back, who sat out all last season in a contract dispute with Pittsburgh, also caught six passes for 32 yards.
(At) Seattle 21, Cincinnati 20: Russell Wilson hit Tyler Lockett for a 44-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter, and the Seahawks withstood a career day from Andy Dalton.
Wilson and the Seahawks struggled offensively for most of the game, but got the big plays they needed on a day Dalton looked great running new coach Zac Taylor’s offense. Wilson was 14-of-20 for 196 yards and two scores, including a 10-yard TD pass in the first half to Chris Carson, who broke three tackles on his way to the end zone.
Wilson’s numbers were pedestrian compared to Dalton’s. The veteran threw for a career-high 418 yards and two first-half touchdowns to John Ross. But the Bengals failed to score on three possessions inside Seattle’s 36-yard line in the third quarter.
Ross, who had 210 yards receiving all of last season, finished with seven catches for 158 yards. He caught a 33-yard touchdown on a flea-flicker midway through the second quarter and hauled in a 55-yard TD pass with 7 seconds left in the first half after Seattle safety Tedric Thompson misjudged Dalton’s pass.
San Francisco 31, (at) Tampa Bay 17: Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon returned two of a retooled San Francisco defense’s three interceptions of Jameis Winston for touchdowns and Robbie Gould kicked three field goals. Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 166 yards and one touchdown in his first game in nearly a year.
Winston threw for 194 yards to become Tampa Bay’s career passing leader, including a 10-yard scoring pass to Chris Godwin that trimmed a double-digit deficit to 20-14 late in the third quarter. Ultimately, though, the Bucs could not overcome the fifth-year quarterback’s mistakes and dropped their debut under coach Bruce Arians, who was lured out of retirement after Tampa Bay finished 5-11 last season and missed the playoffs for the 11th straight year.
Garoppolo, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, completed 18 of 27 passes with one interception. His 39-yard pass to Richie James Jr. put the 49ers ahead for good early in the second half.
Niners LB Kwon Alexander was penalized 15 yards and ejected for lowering his head to initiate contact on Winston late in the first quarter.