ARLINGTON, Texas – Once again, it was the Zeke Elliott and Dak Prescott show. The Cowboys' rookie duo was dazzling and the defense stepped up for a rock-solid performance as well.
There were big runs by Elliott, and Prescott did things with both his arm and feet as the defense flew around to stifle Cincinnati's usually formidable attack.
But like all games, there were a handful of plays that could go unnoticed, yet changed the outcome. Let's take a closer look at five that affected this one:
Rookie CB makes stop for loss – On Cincinnati's first drive, the Bengals were on the move looking to retaliate after the Cowboys' first touchdown. On first down at the Dallas 45-yard line, Brandon LaFell caught a quick pass to the outside, but the play was sniffed out by rookie cornerback Anthony Brown, who dropped LaFell for a 3-yard loss. That changed the Bengals' course from there, and the Cowboys were able to get off the field with two straight stops to force a punt.
Swing pass to Elliott – On the Cowboys' second offensive possession, a holding penalty gave the offense a first-and-15 at their' own 6-yard line. Instead of being too conservative, the Cowboys threw a swing pass to Ezekiel Elliott in the left flat for 10 yards. That got the penalty yardage back and made the next two plays more manageable. The Cowboys were able to convert the first and continued the drive into the second quarter, resulting in a touchdown and a 14-0 lead. Getting 10 yards back on first down from their own 6 changed the entire direction of the drive.
Witten rumbles for 31– Surrounded by a team of youngsters, including a pair of playmaking rookies, Jason Witten looked like a younger version of himself on a 31-yard reception in the second quarter. The Cowboys faced third-and-3 at the Bengals 45-yard line with a 14-0 lead. Prescott found Witten over the middle and the veteran tight end then put some moves on a defensive back, followed by a stiff-arm to get down to the 14-yard line. The Cowboys would then score on the next play on Dak's touchdown throw to Cole Beasley for a 21-0 lead.
Three straight incomplete passes – Just before halftime, a time in the game where most teams will at least drive for a field goal, the Cowboys defense had quite a stand near midfield. With Dallas up 21-0, the Bengals got to their 49-yard line with 32 seconds left, looking for about 10-15 more yards for at least a field goal try. But Andy Dalton threw three consecutive incomplete passes, including two straight to LaFell. Despite being desperate for points, the Bengals had no other choice but to punt, giving the Cowboys a 21-point lead and all the momentum heading into the locker room.
Mo's pass breakup in the end zone– Leading 21-0, the Cowboys were trying to keep the Bengals from not only getting any points, but momentum as well. Dalton rolled right and looked for A.J. Green down the right sideline. But Morris Claiborne stayed right with Green and just as the ball got to both of them, Claiborne got his hand on the ball for a pass breakup, one of the best plays he's made in several years. That kept the Bengals from a touchdown and forced a field goal, which was missed by Mike Nugent, keeping Cincy off the scoreboard. On the next play, the Cowboys pushed the lead to 28-0 with Elliott's 60-yard run.