It was awful, it was great, and then in the end, it was a win. And that's what really matters.
In a primetime Monday night showdown against the Arizona Cardinals, the Dallas Cowboys could do nothing right early in the game, but found their legs in the middle portion of the affair, and then were able to pull away in the end to bring home a 28-17 victory.
After a thorough thrashing at the hands of the Denver Broncos the week before, the Cowboys were looking to bounce back in this third week of the season. But while the offense struggled early, the unit finally wore down the Cardinals and eventually finished with 273 total yards.
That included a gutty performance from quarterback Dak Prescott. Although he only finished with 183 passing yards, he completed 13 of his 18 attempts and threw two touchdowns with no interceptions for a 141.7 passer rating.
Seven different receivers caught a pass in the game with Terrance Williams and Ezekiel Elliott leading the way with four grabs each. Elliott also recovered from his rough showing in Denver to put up 80 rushing yards and a touchdown.
On the other side of the ball, the Dallas defense kept the Cowboys in the game early and then closed things out late, holding the Cardinals to just 49 yards rushing. DeMarcus Lawrence in particular was outstanding, the fourth-year defensive end recording three sacks in the game, as well as six quarterback hurries and three tackles for loss. In total, Dallas recorded six sacks as a team with Maliek Collins also adding two.
Surprisingly, given the final score, this game actually couldn't have started much worse for the Cowboys. The Cardinals easily marched down the field on their opening possession with quarterback Carson Palmer completing three passes of least 20 yards. The final of those was a 25-yard strike to Jaron Brown to give Arizona a quick 7-0 lead.
That was followed by another long series for the home team that saw the Cardinals run 15 plays to get into field goal range. Thankfully, however, they missed the 36-yard attempt.
It was so bad that when the Cowboys took the ball for their third possession of the game, which came midway through the second quarter, they had run just six plays to Arizona's 28 and had been outgained, 157 yards to Dallas' 4.
But somehow they only trailed 7-0.
And slowly, but surely, the Cowboys started to turn the tide. It started with flipping the field position, which led to Dallas beginning their fourth possession at the Arizona 33-yard line after a 21-yard punt return by rookie Ryan Switzer.
From there, the Cowboys needed only three plays, as well as two Cardinals penalties, to find the end zone. The score came thanks to Prescott, who took it himself around the right end and then dove over a trio of Arizona defensive players for the 10-yard touchdown.
With that, the Cowboys went into the break with the score remarkably tied 7-7. Again, at that point, they had only 57 yards of offense, including just 16 net passing yards and 31 rushing yards by Elliott, of which 30 came on one play. The 57 yards was the team's fewest at the half since Dec. 4, 2005 at the Giants, which was a game Dallas lost, 17-10.
But things would be different on this night. The Cowboys picked up right where they left off once the third quarter got underway. First the Dallas defense completely dominated Arizona on its first possession of the third quarter with Lawrence getting his first sack of the game.
Then after the ensuing punt gave the Cowboys the ball at the Cardinals' 46-yard line, Elliott ran the ball three straight times for a combined 31 yards. That led to Prescott hitting Dez Bryant, who was playing in his 100th career game, in the middle of the field with the Pro Bowl receiver turning and powering his way into the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown and a 14-7 lead.
Back came the Cardinals, thanks to their two impressive veterans. Palmer hit future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald for a big 37-yard completion, and then the pair capped the drive with a 15-yard connection in the back right corner of the end zone. That tied the score again with just more than three minutes left in the third frame.
But as the clock ticked over to the fourth quarter, Dallas got things back in order and put up two touchdowns over the final 12 minutes to come away with the victory. And Brice Butler played a big part in both scores.[embeddedad0]
For the Cowboys' third touchdown, Butler hauled in a pretty pass from Prescott, who threw the ball 37 yards into the end zone while running out of the pocket to his right. That gave Dallas the advantage once again, 21-14.
Then on the team's very next possession, on almost the exact same play, Prescott again connected with Butler when scrambling to his right, this time for a 53-yard completion to the Arizona 22. Three plays later, Elliott went off right tackle for the final 8 yards and his first touchdown of the season.
After that, all that was left for Dallas to do was run out the clock, and the Cowboys took care of business. The Cardinals added a little excitement, driving down to the Dallas 2-yard line, but on fourth-and-goal, Palmer's pass was broken up by safety Byron Jones, ensuring the Cowboys victory.
With the win, Dallas improved to 2-1 on the season and now will return to AT&T Stadium for two straight home games, beginning with a battle against the Los Angeles Rams next Sunday at noon.