Cowboys Move to 3-1 Thanks to Rooks
SANTA CLARA – You are on the road. A half-dozen of your team’s stars are in street clothes and you have a lifetime 2-8 record when two of those standouts, Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, are sidelined together. You start the game down two touchdowns and the guys assigned with fixing that are led by a pair of rookies.
“At the start of training camp, would I have been able to predict success (in that situation)? Probably not. But after getting to know them, and seeing their work ethic and their talent and their character? Yes,” Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee told me after Dallas secured this unlikely 24-17 win on Sunday.
The “them” in question is the tandem of running back Ezekiel Elliott and quarterback Dak Prescott, who do most everything together; they are part of the same rookie class, obviously. They are game-weekend roommates and close pals. And they are co-Rookie-of-The-Year candidates, too, as foundation pieces on this surprising 3-1 team.
This will probably be the fourth time in four weeks in this space that I’ve labeled Dak “unflappable,” but this was a challenge of a different sort. … and again, flap-free. Dallas started the game in a 14–0 hole, but the cool Prescott ended up completing 23-of-32 passes for 245 yards and two touchdowns.
Mistakes? He made a few. But Prescott has now avoided being intercepted on all of his 131 career passes. That requires and reflects a little luck – but also work ethic, talent and character, too.
“That,” said coach Jason Garrett of the comeback, “is what this team is all about.”
I’ve reported on 105.3 The Fan that Romo might start throwing in practice this Thursday and miss just two more games with that fractured bone in his back. That causes visions of “QB controversy” to dance in some observers’ heads, but if you think Romo is anything but proud of Prescott, you don’t know Romo.
The organization is also proud of Elliott, and proud of itself for using the fourth-overall pick on him. Zeke experienced his best effort of the season, rushing for 138 yards and a TD. Zeke is a big part of what Garrett termed, “The kind of team we want to build; Handle any situation … you want to have the kind of guys that are going to respond the right way.”
This win wasn’t all about the offense, of course. Cornerback Mo Claiborne’s first interception since 2014 (and a big outcome-sealing tackle late) keyed a defense that has in four outings given up just 20, 23, 17 and 17 points, respectively. “It feels great to finally get (a pick),” Mo told me, “but especially because it comes in a win.”
No Dez meant a need for step-ups from receivers Terrance Williams and Brice Butler, and each guy caught a TD pass.
Bryant, who missed the game with a hairline fracture in his right knee, was their biggest cheerleader throughout the end of the week and the game … and then sat down with me for a long visit to serve as the biggest defender of himself. He finds himself once again under attack by national-media members who he thinks seek to take him down.
“I made a poor-ass decision (in allowing his knee injury to frustrate him to the point where he missed appointments and meetings),” Dez told me after the game. “But I’ve grown from mistakes I made earlier in my career and I took my punishment when I made this mistake. But I love my teammates and they love me. I give my life. I give my heart.”
And when Bryant and Romo return, to build on and supplement what the new rookie stars have done so far, the Cowboys might have even more to give and Cowboys Nation might have even more to love.