FRISCO, Texas — Dak Prescott vowed to never miss after straining his right calf in overtime that gave the Dallas Cowboys their first win in New England since 1987.
The star quarterback believes he can fulfill this oath as the team enters its opening week. Even with the hiatus, his recent history with teammates suggests Prescott’s outlook is optimistic.
Receiver Michael Gallup has not played since opening due to calf strain. Four-time All-Pro Zack Martin has missed the last five games after playing in one game last year. He was injured in training and escalated tensions 10 days later in the second game after the injury.
After Prescott’s dramatic victory over the Patriots 35-29, he needed help getting to the locker room and donned a pair of walking shoes to the post-match meeting with reporters. An MRI was scheduled for Monday.
“I have a lot of confidence in myself and the healthcare team, and like I said, I feel good,” Prescott said. ‘This (bot) is a precaution. Frankly, it didn’t hurt that bad when you scored and won the match.’
The injury is to the same lower leg that required two surgeries after Prescott suffered a season-ending compound fracture of his right ankle in Week 5 last year. Prescott said he didn’t know if this was cause for further concern.
Prescott passed for 445 yards, the most points the Patriots allowed under coach Bill Belichick, including playoffs. The Cowboys also had the most yards against New England at 567 under Belichick.
If there were any ongoing questions about whether the Cowboys (5-1) had one of the best offenses in the NFL, now they don’t.
They played the same way, but when Prescott got injured last year, they had a losing record. The difference between the NFC East leaders, who have five consecutive victories, is an opportunistic defense who is second in the league with 14 packs.
“We know we’re real,” said Dallas quarterback Prescott, the first to receive at least three TD passes in four consecutive games. “I don’t think we’re trying to send a message to anyone here rather than showing it to ourselves.”
The passing game was more impressive than the opening, when Prescott threw for 403 yards in a last-second loss to Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay. Prescott was 51/51 as the Cowboys overcame an unproductive first half, with three laps in 20 points resulting in just three points. Prescott made an interception in the finishing zone on the first inning.
WR CeeDee Lamb set a career record nine catches for 149 yards. His second goal was 35 yards winning in overtime. Prescott steadied RB Ezekiel Elliott to season-highs by finishing seven times for 50 yards. TE Dalton Schultz had another big match (five catches, 79 cards). Dallas won’t win unless WR Cedrick Wilson can jump 13 yards in late fourth and 4th in regulation.
WHO NEEDS HELP
Penalties and game management continue to be a problem. Dallas took the most fourth-yard (404) second penalties in the NFL (48) on Sunday, earning 115-to-12 penalties. The Cowboys had 76 penalty areas at halftime, so they were trailing 14-10. He dominated most of the first half.
Coach Mike McCarthy lost an ill-advised fight early on when there was no clear evidence that Elliott had crossed the bottom line first in a fourth and 1st series. He unnecessarily gave the Patriots 20 seconds at the end of the edit, using a staggering 24 seconds left when the tie hit should have been the last game.
Just when CB Trevon Diggs’ stock looked like it couldn’t go higher, he put in a 42-yard interception for a forward goal in the late fourth quarter. Diggs has interceptions in all six games, setting an NFL record with seven overalls and two TDs at the start of a season. Sometimes the risk with such a production came into play after six picks when Kendrick Bourne let himself pass on a 75-yard touchdown pass, which immediately put the Patriots ahead. Safety Damontae Kazee also misplayed the pass.
LG Connor Williams worsened the third-holding penalty in the final minute of the game with a call for unsportsmanlike behavior that nearly cost the Cowboys the game. As the unsportsmanlike penalty was after the game, the Cowboys faced a third and 25 point off the court. Prescott’s 24-yard pass to Lamb secured Greg Zuerlein’s 49-yard field goal.
LT Tyron Smith added a left ankle injury to his neck problem that limited him in training during the week. Smith went to the locker room but was back in the game.
9 – Number of 400 yard pass plays for Prescott. It matches the sum of all its predecessors, a list that includes the two Halls of Fame in Roger Staubach (which he didn’t have in a different era) and Troy Aikman. Leader Tony Romo, who passed his club career, had five and Don Meredith had two. Aikman had one, as did current Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore.
The Cowboys are already three games ahead in the league. After open week, Dallas plays in Minnesota on Halloween night. It will be a return to the best win scene for McCarthy in a tough first season with the Cowboys finishing 6-10.
More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL