FRISCO, Texas (AP)Dak Prescott promised not to miss any time after straining his right calf on the touchdown pass in overtime that gave the Dallas Cowboys their first win at New England since 1987.
The star quarterback believes he can deliver on that vow because the team is going into its open week. Even with the break, recent history with his teammates suggests Prescott’s view is optimistic.
Receiver Michael Gallup hasn’t played since the opener because of a calf strain. Four-time All-Pro Zack Martin missed the final five games last year after playing through one. He was injured in practice and aggravated the strain 10 days later, in the second game since the injury.
Prescott needed help getting to the locker room after the dramatic 35-29 win over the Patriots and wore a walking boot to the postgame meeting with reporters. Coach Mike McCarthy said an MRI confirmed the strain Monday, and he is optimistic about Prescott playing at Minnesota on Oct. 31.
”I’ve got a lot of confidence in myself and the medical team, and as I said I feel good,” Prescott said after the game. ”This (the boot) is a precaution. Didn’t hurt as bad obviously when you score and win the game.”
The injury is in the same lower leg that needed two surgeries after Prescott’s season-ending compound fracture of his right ankle in Week 5 last year. Prescott said he didn’t know if that was any more reason for concern.
Prescott had 445 yards passing, the most the Patriots have allowed under coach Bill Belichick, playoffs included. The Cowboys also had the most total yards against New England in the Belichick era with 567.
If there were any lingering questions about whether the Cowboys (5-1) have one of the best offenses in the NFL, there aren’t now.
They were playing the same way, but had a losing record when Prescott got hurt last year. The difference for the NFC East leaders, who have five straight victories, is an opportunistic defense that’s second in the league with 14 takeaways.
”We know we’re for real,” said Prescott, the first Dallas quarterback with at least three TD passes in four consecutive games. ”I don’t think we’re out here trying to send a message to anybody, more so than we’re showing it to ourselves.”
The passing game was even more impressive than the opener, when Prescott threw for 403 yards in a last-second loss to Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay. Prescott was 36 of 51 as the Cowboys overcame an inefficient first half when three trips inside the 20 resulted in just three points. Prescott threw an interception in the end zone on the first one.
WR CeeDee Lamb had career highs of nine catches for 149 yards. His second touchdown was the 35-yarder to win it in overtime. Prescott showed patience with season highs of seven completions for 50 yards to RB Ezekiel Elliott. TE Dalton Schultz had another big game (five catches, 79 cards). Dallas doesn’t win if WR Cedrick Wilson doesn’t make a leaping 13-yard grab on fourth-and-4 late in regulation.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Penalties and game management continue to be problems. Dallas came out of Sunday with the second-most penalties in the NFL (48) for the fourth-most yards (404) after getting 12 for 115. The Cowboys had 76 penalty yards at halftime, which is why they trailed 14-10 after dominating most of the first half.
McCarthy lost an ill-advised challenge early when there wasn’t clear evidence Elliott got the ball past the first-down line on a fourth-and-1 run. He needlessly gave the Patriots 20 seconds at the end of regulation by using a puzzling timeout with 24 seconds remaining when the tying kick should have been the final play.
Just when it appeared CB Trevon Diggs’ stock couldn’t go any higher, he returned an interception 42 yards for a go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Diggs has interceptions in all six games, tying an NFL record at the start of a season, with seven overall and two TDs. The risk that sometimes goes with such production showed up on the play after the pick-six when he let Kendrick Bourne run by him on a 75-yard touchdown pass that immediately put the Patriots back in front. Safety Damontae Kazee also misplayed the pass.
LG Connor Williams made his third holding penalty of the game worse with an unsportsmanlike conduct call that almost cost the Cowboys the game in the final minute of regulation. Because the unsportsmanlike penalty was after the play, the Cowboys faced third-and-25 outside of field-goal range. Prescott’s 24-yard pass to Lamb set up Greg Zuerlein’s tying 49-yard field goal.
LT Tyron Smith added a left ankle injury to the neck issue that limited him in practice during the week. Smith went to the locker room but returned to the game.
9 – The number of 400-yard passing games for Prescott. It matches the combined total of all his predecessors, a list that includes two Hall of Famers in Roger Staubach (he didn’t have any in a different era) and Troy Aikman. Club career passing leader Tony Romo had five and Don Meredith two. Aikman had one, as did current Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore.
The Cowboys already have a three-game lead in the division. The visit to the Vikings on Halloween night is a return to the scene of the best win for McCarthy in a difficult first season, when the Cowboys finished 6-10.
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