The excitement and festivities surrounding the opening of the Dallas Cowboys' 2016 exhibition schedule seemed like anything but a typical preseason game.
After all, this marked the return of the Rams to Los Angeles with the Cowboys large Southern California fan base on hand to watch their team play in L.A. for the first time in more than two decades. Throw in a prime-time ESPN slot on a Saturday night and this was all pretty special.
And then the whistle blew, the Rams kicked off and Lucky Whitehead took the opening kick back 101 yards for an immediate touchdown. Definitely special. That jumpstarted the Cowboys to an impressive first half, but in the end, Los Angeles sent the fans home happy, pulling out a 28-24 victory.
Many of Dallas' expected starters, including Tony Romo, Ezekiel Elliott, Jason Witten, Tyron Smith, Sean Lee, Orlando Scandrick, DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford, among others, spent the night enjoying the view from the sidelines, which was no surprise.
But they weren't the story. What this game was really about was the young quarterbacks on the field, for the Cowboys Dak Prescott and Jameill Showers and the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft, Jared Goff, for the Rams.
Prescott got the start and enjoyed the services of four of the Cowboys' five starting offensive linemen, a 1,000-yard back in Alfred Morris and the team's top wide receivers: Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley.
And the rookie was impressive in his opening series, thanks in part to offensive coordinator Scott Linehan's play-calling, leading the Cowboys on a 10-play, 80-yard drive that saw Prescott complete 6-of-7 passes, the one miss a drop by tight end Geoff Swaim. He also benefited from two outstanding catches from Bryant, including the 10-yard touchdown toss that saw the star wideout haul in a soft toss over the back of the defender, get both feet down and lunge for the end zone.
So what did he do for an encore? On his next drive Prescott again led his team to the promised land. And this time he opened it up a little more, first throwing a 22-yard strike to Brice Butler on the left sideline before then dropping in a beautiful 32-yard pass to Williams streaking into the end zone.
[embeddedad0]The Cowboys then sat the rest of their starting offensive linemen and receivers, and while the offense wasn't quite as potent, Prescott was still impressive. He overcame two penalties and looked good on a third-down scramble on his next drive to set up Dan Bailey for a 44-yard field goal.
Prescott's night came to an end at the half, the rookie finishing with 139 yards on 10-of-12 passing (both drops by Swaim), two touchdowns and a 154.5 passer rating. He also had the Cowboys up 24-7. You couldn't ask for a better debut.
Halftime meant the end of the night for Goff as well, although he was originally expected to play into the third quarter. He wound up completing just 4-of-9 attempts for 39 yards and an interception. Clearly Prescott, a fourth-round pick in April, topped his fellow rookie.
As special as the night had been, once the second half got underway, your typical preseason game broke out with sloppier play and more penalties. Showers and the offense struggled to move the ball, failing to put any points on the board, although the second-year quarterback showed flashes.
Most notably was a 47-yard completion that came after he somehow escaped a sack with an acrobatic move before breaking loose to find wide receiver Vince Mayle down the field. Without the same supporting cast, though, Showers finished with 99 passing yards on 8-of-16 passes with no touchdowns and no interceptions.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, the Dallas reserves were unable to slow down their Rams counterparts, who put up 21 second-half points, the winner coming on a 9-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Sean Mannion to running back Aaron Green with just 1:54 left in the game. That secured a 28-24 win for Los Angeles, which although it came at the expense of the Cowboys, was a fitting ending for a special night.
The Cowboys will now travel back up the road for a final few days of training camp in Oxnard, Calif., before heading home to take on the Miami Dolphins on Friday, Aug. 19, in their second game of the preseason.
Take a look at some of our favorite photos from the 1st half of the Dallas Cowboys vs. Los Angeles Rams game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on August 13, 2016.