The Cowboys are heading back to Dallas with their first win of preseason – and a productive cameo from quarterback Dak Prescott and company.
An opening 97-yard touchdown drive was all head coach Jason Garrett needed to see from quarterback Prescott and the first-team offense at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu. Rookie running back Tony Pollard's 14-yard touchdown run ended a 12-play series for an early lead in Saturday's eventual 14-10 victory over the LA Rams.
Starting at his own 3-yard line, Prescott overcame an early sack for a 12-yard loss and crossed midfield with a 31-yard completion to second-year receiver Michael Gallup. Prescott completed all five of his pass attempts for 64 yards, and Pollard, starting once again amid Ezekiel Elliott's continued holdout, accounted for 51 total yards from scrimmage: 42 rushing and 9 receiving.
"I thought Dak was in total command," tight end Jason Witten said. "We were backed up on our 3-yard line, and he said, 'Let's go 97,' and we did."
Saturday marked Witten's first game action since the end of the 2017 season. Back from a 10-month retirement, he hauled in a 10-yard catch on third-and-6 from the Rams' 24-yard line that set up Pollard's 14 -yard touchdown.
"It felt really good. I was very anxious to get out there and play," Witten said. "It is just the next step in the comeback. I worked really hard to get back in shape. I hold myself to a high standard, so I can say it was not perfect."
While the Rams sat most starters on both sides of the ball, a combination of projected starters and reserves comprised the Cowboys' first-team offense and defense. Several players dealing with injuries in camp or rehabbing from offseason surgery did not play, and some did not make the trip to Hawaii. Among them: wide receiver Amari Cooper, left tackle Tyron Smith, right guard Zack Martin, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, cornerback Byron Jones, defensive end Robert Quinn, linebacker Sean Lee and defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford.
The Cowboys' first-team defense forced punts on the first two drives, thanks to solid pressure up front from defensive tackle Maliek Collins and others. But first-year receiver Reggie Davis gave LA the ball back at the Dallas 37 when he muffed the ensuing punt. The Rams cashed in five plays later – the last drive for many of the Cowboys' defensive starters – and kicked a field goal for a 10-7 lead just before half.
In the backup quarterback competition, Mike White subbed in for Prescott after the opening touchdown drive. But the 2018 fifth-round pick didn't find much traction for the second straight game. He completed 7 of 13 passes for 30 yards on four drives and underthrew a ball that was intercepted on the first drive of the second half – his second turnover in two preseason games.
Fellow backup Cooper Rush finished the game. He led the offense on a 72-yard touchdown drive to regain a 14-10 lead late in the third quarter, his 8-yard pass to wide receiver Devin Smith on target in the right corner of the end zone.
Rush completed 10 of 16 passes for 83 yards and got help from the defense late, with rookie defensive end Joe Jackson helping force LA into a punting situation in the final three minutes.
Now 1-1 in preseason play, the Cowboys will resume practice Tuesday with the first of five open sessions at Ford Center at The Star in Frisco. They'll host the Houston Texans in their third preseason game next Saturday at AT&T Stadium.
Other notes from Saturday's game:
- Brett Maher is now 3-for-5 on field goal attempts in two preseason games. His lone attempt Saturday sailed wide right from 52 yards out. "I just wanted to see what he can do," Garrett said. "He has been such a good kicker for us from that distance. With the conditions, with the wind, outdoors, all that, I just wanted to put him in that situation, and he will grow from that experience."
- Rookie linebacker Justin Phillips offset White's third-quarter interception with a pick of his own on the very next play. Phillips had a productive game last Saturday at San Francisco, too, tying for the team with five tackles in the Cowboys' 17-9 loss to the 49ers.
- With Lawrence, Quinn and Crawford not playing, third-year defensive end Taco Charlton capitalized on the extra snaps with a pair of pass deflections in the first half.
- The Cowboys appeared to finish the game relatively healthy, but linebacker Chris Covington did suffer a left shoulder injury on the opening kickoff and went to the locker room for further evaluation.
- The Cowboys welcomed Pono Tuinei, wife of the late former Cowboys offensive lineman Mark Tuinei, as an honorary captain prior to kickoff.
- Cowboys-Rams was the first NFL exhibition game at Aloha Stadium since 1976, when the 49ers played the Chargers. It was the Cowboys' 36th neutral-site preseason game, the 10th outside the 48 contiguous states and the first in Hawaii.