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Game Recap: In Jaylon Smith’s Return, Cooper Rush Leads Team To 24-19 Win
Is there controversy now as far as who should be the backup quarterback behind Dak Prescott? Likely not.
But many fans can help but ask, should there be?
The Cowboys pulled out a 24-19 victory over the Indianapolis Colts thanks to the late-game play of rookie quarterback Cooper Rush, the third straight exhibition outing in which he has looked impressive, although his work has come against those just fighting to make an NFL roster.
But Rush guided Dallas to 14 points in the second half, which was the difference in the end and came on the heels of another shaky performance by Kellen Moore. The veteran led the team to three points, but also fumbled a ball that was picked up and returned for a touchdown.
Even worse, Moore finished the night with 131 yards passing, but completed only 47.6 percent of his attempts (10-of-21) for a 67.8 passer rating. Conversely, Rush totaled 92 passing yards, but completed 88.9 of his tries (8-of-9) for a 148.8 rating.
Of course, had the Cowboys’ first string played the entire game, this had the appearances of a rout.
Those who started the game included Jaylon Smith, who was making his NFL debut after missing all of last season due to a knee injury. Perhaps the most intriguing story on the night, Smith played just 12 snaps, but showed the speed and talent that made the Cowboys take a chance on him in the 2016 draft. He finished with one tackle, which stopped the Colts short of the chains on third down.
On offense, Dak Prescott, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Darren McFadden played the game’s first two series, a total of 18 plays, while left tackle Tyron Smith played only during the opening drive before giving way to Chaz Green. The rest of the offensive starters were done after three possessions.
That group, however, opened the game by using a no-huddle, hurry-up attack to quickly march 95 yards to the end zone in just seven plays. Prescott was 4-for-4 on his pass attempts, tossing two each to Bryant and Witten, while McFadden averaged 5.3 rushing yards on his three carries during the series.
The drive was capped when Prescott connected with Bryant, who did a nifty move to shake Colt’s cornerback Vontae Davis and get into the end zone, the Cowboys enjoying a 7-0 lead less than four minutes into the game.
And after the defense did its part by holding Indianapolis to a three-and-out, Dallas again moved easily down the field as the offensive line simply dominated. But with the Cowboys again knocking on the door, the drive was unfortunately brought to a sudden halt when McFadden fumbled, the Colts recovering at their own 7-yard line.
Prescott finished his night with a perfect passer rating of 158.3 while completing 7 of his 8 attempts for 106 passing yards.
And with that, on came Moore, who was trying to bounce back from a subpar effort in the team’s second preseason outing. But on just his second snap of the game, he had the ball stripped away by rusher Barkevious Mingo with linebacker Lavar Edwards then scooping up a perfect bounce and darting 15 yards untouched into the end zone, tying the score at 7-7.
Needless to say, that wasn’t the kind of start Moore was wanting.
A punt followed on the Cowboys’ next possession before Moore, without the services of any first-stringers around him, finally got the team rolling again midway through the second quarter. Starting at his own 27, he took the team 66 yards into field goal range, the big play coming when the quarterback hit receiver Brice Butler for a 21-yard gain that then had 15 more yards added thanks to a facemask penalty on the Colts. Dan Bailey was good from 25 yards and the Cowboys had a momentary lead.
But the Colts added a field goal before the half, which provided an even 10-10 slate as the third quarter got underway. And although Moore played the first series after the break, and completed three passes for 37 yards to get into enemy territory, Sam Irwin-Hill’s 44-yard attempt was blocked.
The rookie Rush then entered the game on the Cowboys’ next possession, which came after the Colts had tacked on three more points. He promptly drove the team 76 yards in six plays while completing all four of his pass attempts. The last of those was a perfectly placed 19-yard throw to wideout Noah Brown on the right side of the end zone to give Dallas the lead, 17-13, heading into the fourth quarter.
That was followed by another touchdown on the Cowboys’ next series, with Rush this time completing four of his five attempts, including a three-yard dart to Lance Lenoir on a slant, which gave Dallas a 24-13 advantage with 8:46 remaining.
The Colts made it interesting by adding a touchdown with only 57 seconds left, but they were unsuccessful on a two-point conversion attempt, the Cowboys holding on for the 24-19 win.
With the victory, the Cowboys moved to 2-1 on the preseason with two more exhibition games left to play. They’ll now begin the Frisco portion of training camp on Monday before hosting the Oakland Raiders at AT&T Stadium next Saturday night 7:00 p.m.
And while the odds still seem long for Rush, as the Cowboys coaching staff values the knowledge and experience of Moore, for those fans believing that the rookie should get a shot at backup quarterback duties, well, he again held up his end of the argument.