FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott lost two games when both played during a remarkable rookie year for the Dallas Cowboys.
The star quarterback and running back have already matched that a quarter of the way through what’s been an uneven second season. They face Green Bay on Sunday less than nine months after the Packers (3-1) spoiled the duo’s first playoff appearance as the NFC’s top seed at home.
The Cowboys (2-2) solved the problem of slow starts in two straight games, but created a new one by letting an 11-point lead slip away in a surprising 35-30 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Prescott, last year’s NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, was off-target as the Cowboys punted three straight times in the third quarter after scoring on all four first-half drives Sunday. The fourth possession after halftime ended with his third interception of the season. Prescott threw four his entire rookie year.
“I think I missed some throws in the second half that I didn’t miss in the first half or that I can’t miss, simply,” Prescott said . “Going along with that, it is just knowing where I am going with the ball so that my feet can be in tune with my body.”
Prescott was 20 of 36 for 252 yards and three touchdowns with his third sub-100 passer rating in four games. He had five such games last season, when he set an NFL rookie record with a 104.9 rating as the Cowboys went 13-3. They lost their finale when Prescott played only briefly and Elliott sat with a first-round playoff bye clinched.
There were bright moments for Prescott against the Rams, such as his duck-and-spin out of what looked like a sure sack for All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald before an 18-yard throw to Dez Bryant, who had a season-high 98 yards receiving.
“He made a lot of plays for us, in the pocket, out of the pocket, throughout the game,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He stood in there under some duress and made some throws. Having said that, the standard is high. And he did miss some throws.”
Elliott matched the longest drought from his rookie season with his third straight game of less than 100 yards rushing. Last year’s NFL rushing leader scored two touchdowns in the first half against the Rams and had 97 total yards at halftime: 56 rushing and 41 receiving.
But Elliott had just nine touches and 42 total yards after halftime the day before a federal appeals court heard arguments over the NFL’s emergency request to lift an injunction that blocked the league’s six-game suspension over domestic violence allegations in Ohio.
“I think we have an identity in what we want to do,” tight end Jason Witten said. “Just stay with the run game and what we’re trying to do. Just overall, we have to be better at it. It’s a team that understands it, what we’re trying to get accomplished.”
Even though Prescott and Elliott had won three straight games on the way to a franchise-record 11-game winning streak this time last year, the Cowboys were coming off a less-than-impressive showing against a San Francisco team headed for a 2-14 finish.
But two things are already different for Dallas. The Cowboys were never blown out last season like they were in Week 2 at Denver. And they never let leads get away without finding a way to win, which is what happened against the Rams.
“I think when people look at a team like ourselves and the success we had last year, they have obviously decided that, hey, we’re going to make Dak beat us and we’re going to stop their running game,” executive vice president of personnel Stephen Jones said on his radio show Monday. “I think Dak will execute better as we move forward, not that he hasn’t played really well. And I think as the season goes, we’ll execute better. As that happens, I think you’ll see some of the strength of our offense again. I have a lot of confidence that it’s going to happen.”