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Dak Prescott is still just a rookie.
Prescott led the Cowboys to an easy 31-17 win over the Bears, looking nothing like a first-year player in the process. He was efficient enough passing, but is able to move in the pocket and keep plays alive and run and get back up again, things that Tony Romo can’t always do (especially that last one).
Prescott finished 19-of-24 passing for 248 yards and a touchdown.
He’s played so precociously that it’s almost a surprise that his fourth-quarter touchdown to Dez Bryant was his first touchdown pass, but the fact we’re still waiting to see his first interception speaks to what makes the Cowboys love the almost-afterthought fourth-rounder so much.
It would be as irresponsible to suggest that he’s going to make Romo obsolete as it was when some were getting moon-eyed over Jimmy Garoppolo in New England the first two weeks of the season. But Prescott walked into a situation nearly as attractive as being coached by Bill Belichick when he got to take his first NFL snaps behind the Cowboys’ offensive line and surrounded by such skill-position talent.
That gives them two wins in three games without Romo, which is double what the Cowboys won in 12 non-Romo starts last year (Cassel had the one). There are plenty of people contributing to that, but unlike past situations, the Cowboys feel like they have a chance with Prescott at the helm.
Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:
1. Prescott’s been good, but fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott is helping to make it easy for his quarterback.
Elliott finished with 30 carries for 140 yards, dramatically improving his totals. He went for 51 yards in the opener and 83 last week, and after a slow preseason, this was the first time he flashed star quality. As a pro, at least. His hurdle of Bears safety Chris Prosinski gave him a poster-worthy shot, and may have summed up the evening for both sides.
The idea behind drafting the Ohio State running back fourth overall was to help Romo-proof the offense anyway, and his ability to keep chains moving is going to be of assistance when the old guy comes back too.
2. On the other sideline, we probably should have seen this coming.
The Bears walked in the door undermanned and on a short week, after an embarrassing loss to the Eagles last Monday, with backup quarterback Brian Hoyer.
While it’s uncertain that Jay Cutler would have made things any better, there’s a certain hopelessness that descends with veteran backups of Hoyer’s ilk. But the Bears were in a transitional phase anyway, and then kept getting hurt.
To recap: In addition to starting Cutler, the Bears were without pass-rushers Lamarr Houston (IR) and Pernell McPhee (PUP), and center Hroniss Grasu (IR). That doesn’t even get into the recent injuries, including defensive tackle Eddie Goldman and linebacker Danny Trevathan, who were inactive because of problems of shorter-term nature.
3. While the lack of punch of the Bears offense was certainly a factor, the Cowboys’ defense looked almost competent at times.
They’re still short on pass-rushers, and will be for another game until Demarcus Lawrence returns a week from now after his four-game drug suspension.
But considering they get the punchless 49ers next week, they might be able to survive the wait.
4. The Cowboys are going to be at their best when they can play from ahead, especially until Tony Romo returns.
But the way they got up on the Bears would have allowed many quarterbacks to have looked good.
The Cowboys had more first downs (19) than the Bears had plays (18) in the first half, leading to a 24-7 lead at the break.
5. There were some bright spots for the Bears.
Sort of. OK, not many.
Tight end Zach Miller caught a couple of touchdowns, but we already knew he was pretty good.
Rookie running back Jordan Howard popped a 36-yard run in the first half, and might have had more if they were in a position to run more often.
The fifth-round pick from Indiana (via Alabama-Birmingham) has shown some promise, but may need some time to gain traction because Fox is generally averse to playing rookies unless he has to.
Maybe he has to.
Sunday’s game had plenty of surprising outcomes. So the question of the day for Monday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio and NBCSN is this: Which win was the most surprising?
The choices appear below. Pick one and make your case in the comments — or complain about how we left out the win secured by your favorite team.
Tune in for the radio show at 6:00 a.m. ET, which slides over to NBCSN at 7:00 a.m. ET.
After the Seahawks finished up a 37-18 win over the 49ers that didn’t feel nearly as close as that final score, 49ers coach Chip Kelly said that he never considered replacing quarterback Blaine Gabbert with Colin Kaepernick.
Kelly said he thought Gabbert “played OK” while going 14-of-25 for 119 yards and an interception while the 49ers fell behind 37-3 before Carlos Hyde ran for two scores in garbage time. Kelly may not be thinking about making a move, but Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett said after the game that he thinks the coach should be heading in the other direction.
“There is no challenge [facing Gabbert]. He threw for 100 yards,” Bennett said, via Curtis Crabtree of PFT and 950 KJR. “The challenge is him reading the defenses and staying in the pocket. What’s the point in running when you have to throw the ball? I think Kaepernick gives the team a better chance of winning, but that’s just my opinion.”
When Kelly said he was sticking with Gabbert after Week Two, he said Kaepernick wasn’t up to his playing weight after an offseason spent recovering from multiple surgeries. Kaepernick said on Sunday that he feels ready to play, but it doesn’t sound like the 49ers are ready to move in his direction.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson will have an MRI on Sunday night to determine the amount of damage, if any, in Wilson’s left knee.
In response to a report from NFL Media that Wilson has an MCL sprain, a source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that this is “trainer’s speculation” based on physical testing of the knee. The MRI will be definitive.
Depending on the degree of the injury, an MCL sprain is playable. The rope-like ligament can heal itself with rest, fraying when it sprains instead of tearing. Jets receiver Brandon Marshall, for example, played last Thursday with an MCL sprain, and returned to play on Sunday.
The Bears are down their starting quarterback and plenty of other players, and now they’re down by a couple of touchdowns.
The Cowboys are off to a roaring start on Sunday Night Football, taking advantage of a depleted Bears squad.
Beset by injuries, the Bears haven’t really interrupted the Cowboys all night.
And with backup quarterback Brian Hoyer not really perfectly suited to play from behind, this could get away from them. They did get a field goal after a nice 36-yard run from rookie running back Jordan Howard, but then tried an onside kick but were offsides, and kicked it away after the penalty.
Browns receiver Terrelle Pryor made a significant contribution to the effort on Sunday. Instead of cutting off a finger or any other appendage, Pryor added roles to catching passes, with rare results.
Pryor had 144 receiving yards, 35 passing yards, and 21 rushing yards in the overtime loss at Miami. According to the NFL, Pryor became the first player to have at least 120 receiving yards, at least 30 passing yards, and at least 20 rushing yards in a single game since Hall of Famer Frank Gifford did it on December 6, 1959.
Look for Pryor to keep doing all he can for the Browns as coach Hue Jackson keeps trying his best to make chicken salad. At a time when the Browns don’t have much about which to be proud, they should be glad that they saw real ability in Pryor and stuck with him long enough for it to emerge
The Cowboys have an early lead, and their breath back.
Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott just gave them a 7-0 lead over the Bears with a sneak for a touchdown, capping a drive of highs and lows.
Rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott popped a 21-yard run, tied for the longest of his career so far, as they put together the kind of long, grind-it-out drive they’re built for.
The Cowboys survived a couple of scares, as star wide receiver Dez Bryant appeared to have suffered a knee injury. But he returned to the game later in the drive, as did Cole Beasley, who took a hard shot to the ribs and appeared shaken up for a moment.
Sometimes when you move, those boxes in the garage stay packed.
Well, Rams coach Jeff Fisher dug past the 8-tracks and the old dishes, and found all the touchdowns.
After scoring nine points (9!?!) in their first two games, the Rams exploded in a 37-32 win over the Buccaneers, to move to 2-1.
The Rams didn’t do it all with their explosive offense, with defensive tackle Ethan Westbrook scooping a sack-strip fumble and taking it 77 yards for a touchdown.
But with Todd Gurley running for two touchdowns and quarterback Case Keenum actually doing something, it was enough to withstand an hour-plus lightning delay and a late charge by Tampa, with Robert Quinn taking down quarterback Jameis Winston to end it.
The Bucs (1-2) have a number of concerns, including the fact they left four points on the board with a missed field goal and a missed extra point by rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo. That left them chasing two-point conversions late in the game, both of which failed.
Winston had a solid day, with 405 yards and three touchdowns, but the reality wasn’t as good as the fantasy stats.
The Jets lost 24-3 in Kansas City on Sunday due in large part to eight turnovers, six of which were interceptions thrown by Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Wide receiver Brandon Marshall called it a “embarrassing” performance by the team and coach Todd Bowles treaded in similar water, although he used a different word to describe both the team’s plan and the way the team played.
“S—-y game plan, s—-y execution, s—-y all around,” Bowles said, via Rich Cimini of ESPN.com.
Cornerback Darrelle Revis said the team still believes in Fitzpatrick and there’s not much chance that they’re going to bench him three games into the season after finally giving him $12 million for this year before the start of training camp. Things have to get significantly less s—-y on all fronts in a hurry, though.
The Jets host the Seahawks before road games against the Steelers and Cardinals and they’ll need some wins in those games to avoid a real question about how much there will be to play for over the rest of the season.
Wilson is scheduled for an MRI to determine if his left knee suffered any structural damage.
Wilson said he anticipates he’ll be “good to go” and said he would have returned to Sunday’s win over the 49ers if the game was more competitive.
He left the game in the third quarter. The Seahawks led 37-3 and won 37-18.
The Seahawks play at the Jets next Sunday.
Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey and Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith both picked up unsportsmanlike conduct penalties late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 19-17 Ravens win when they came together after an interception by Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny.
The two men exchanged words again on the field after the game and it seems those words weren’t apologetic about what had gone down before.
“Ya’ll tell me who got in whose head,” Ramsey said, via ESPN.com. “He came up to me after the game, you feel me? Y’all tell me who got in whose head. He’s an old man acting like that. Ain’t nobody worried about him. He came up to me, you know what I’m saying, on some disrespectful stuff. The game’s over with. You still mad ’cause I was locking you up? All right, go sleep on that. I ain’t trying to hear that after the game. … It is what it is. As a player, he’s still a good player. I’ll say that about him. But I don’t respect him as a man.”
Smith, who had eight catches for 87 yards, responded to Ramsey on Twitter.
“I gave U every opportunity to speak face to face,” Smith wrote. “But you found your voice safely behind closed doors. Young man I don’t need ur respect!”
Smith continued by saying that he’ll be in the Hall of Fame by the time Ramsey retires and that Ramsey will never join him because “I got cleats with stronger thread then you.”
Barring a playoff meeting between the two teams, there’s a pretty good chance that this will be the only time Ramsey and Smith face off as Smith was set to retire before last season’s torn Achilles led him to change his mind.
Officially, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has a sprained left knee. Unofficially, they’re holding their breath about the extent of the injury.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Wilson will have an MRI on Sunday night to determine whether and to what extent any of the ligaments or cartilage or other stuff inside the knee is damaged.
Wilson already has overcome a high right ankle sprain suffered in Week One to keep playing. He now has a problem with his left knee.
Wilson’s determination will carry him far, but if ligaments are torn, there’s only so much he or anyone else can do.
In a back-and-forth battle that went down to the final minute, the Colts got the last score and beat the Chargers today in Indianapolis.
The Colts won it on a last-minute touchdown pass from Andrew Luck to T.Y. Hilton, who had an outstanding game. Hilton had eight catches for 174 yards and capitalized on a depleted Chargers defense all day, and the Colts won 26-22.
Philip Rivers and Andrew Luck both topped 300 yards passing, in a game that seemed to be full of momentum swings: The Colts led 10-0 in the first quarter, the Chargers tied it up at 13-13 before halftime and then took a 19-13 lead in the third quarter, the Colts jumped ahead 20-19 before the third was over, the Chargers went up 22-20 midway through the fourth, and the Colts finally won it with Hilton’s touchdown in the fourth.
It was the Colts’ first win of the season after a disappointing start, and both teams are now 1-2.
After the 49ers lost 46-27 to the Panthers in Week Two, coach Chip Kelly said that he was not considering a quarterback change despite two interceptions from Blaine Gabbert in the fourth quarter.
The Niners closed within seven before those Gabbert turnovers, but they never came close to closing the gap against the Seahawks in this Sunday’s 37-18 loss. It was 37-3 before two late Carlos Hyde rushing touchdowns.
The fact that the 49ers elected to keep running the ball down by 34 points suggests that they didn’t have much interest in watching Gabbert throw the ball, which isn’t hard to understand after he went 14-of-25 for 119 yards and an interception. After the game, though, Kelly said he never considered turning to Colin Kaepernick.
“I thought he played OK,” Kelly said of Gabbert, via Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee.
It wasn’t a Ryan Fitzpatrick afternoon, but Gabbert’s play definitely left something to be desired in Week Three. The 49ers may not feel that Kaepernick offers them anything better, although that doesn’t create much confidence in the offensive performances to come as the season unfolds.
The Bucs set up a dramatic finish, and they’re going to make us wait for it.
Referee Ed Hochuli called both teams off the field because of lightning in the Tampa area, with the Rams up 37-32 at the two-minute warning.
The Rams are facing a thrid-and-11 deep in their own territory, after Tavon Austin made a terrible decision to field a kickoff inside the 5 and circle into the end zone before running it out. Then Rams quarterback Case Keenum took a sack to move them farther back.
The Bucs made it close with a Jameis Winston touchdown pass to Mike Evans, giving themselves a chance if the Rams can’t convert after the long break.