ARLINGTON, Texas – In a weird kind of way, it almost felt anticlimactic.
There was the Cowboys' starting offense, together in a game for the first time since last January. There was Ezekiel Elliott, sitting out of Saturday's game with a six-game suspension and a looming appeal hanging over him.
There was Dak Prescott, who has been the subject of so much speculation, taking the first live action snaps of his second season.
All of that build-up, and none of it seemed to matter. Just as if they had never stopped playing, the Cowboys picked up where they left off last year – zipping 95 yards downfield for a touchdown, and needing just seven plays to do it.
The Cowboys' first possession started in the shadow of their own goal post, and it ended just three minutes later when Prescott found Dez Bryant for a 32-yard touchdown.
"The first drive was outstanding," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "A good mix of run and pass, made some plays in the passing game and the throw to Dez was outstanding."
The second possession was more of the same. Prescott moved the offense 76 yards in 11 plays, completing 3-of-4 passes in the process. Darren McFadden rumbled for 47 yards on seven touches, and seemed likely to score another touchdown if not for a red zone fumble.
"The second drive was equally good," Garrett said. "We didn't cash in on it, though. The turnover down in close obviously hurt us."
Obviously, preseason football isn't always a great indicator of things to come. There's not a lot of game planning happening for an exhibition game, and not everyone's starters are playing.
But considering the lofty expectations facing this offense – and facing Prescott in particular – it had to be encouraging to see the Cowboys hit the ground running.
"Tonight was just an extension of training camp, of what we've been doing – the whole offense together – just getting better," Prescott said. "It was great to take it from the practice field and go out there and put it in a game situation."[embeddedad0]
Despite throwing an incompletion, the young quarterback finished his first outing with a perfect passer rating, having completed 8-of-9 passes for 106 yards and a touchdown. His connection with Bryant was especially inspiring, as the two Pro Bowlers connected twice for 55 yards and a score.
"To me, this is the best Dez has been," Prescott said. "Somebody asked me the other day who I think the most improved player is, and I said Dez. Just the way he's been taking care of his body, his effort, his attitude – everything, from last year to this year. I'm excited to throw him the ball and watch what he can do after the catch this year."
That's an encouraging thing to hear for an offense that's facing the prospect of playing without Elliott for six weeks. On top of that, Prescott got everyone else involved, completing passes to McFadden, Jason Witten and Cole Beasley in just two possessions.
It might have been just a preseason game, but it was certainly a promising start.
"I feel good behind that offensive line, throwing to those guys, letting them do what they do best," Prescott said.