ARLINGTON, Texas – After Dak Prescott's season ended on a gruesome ankle injury, his running mate for all five of their seasons with the Dallas Cowboys had a hard time getting through the post-game interview.
Ezekiel Elliott sounded crushed, even after backup Andy Dalton led a drive to Greg Zuerlein's second game-ending field goal of the season as the Cowboys rallied twice in a 37-34 victory over the winless New York Giants on Sunday.
“I can’t even think right right now,” Elliott, the two-time rushing champion, said to no question in particular as he continued trying to absorb the third-quarter injury to Prescott, a two-time Pro Bowl quarterback who was the unheralded fourth-round pick the same year Elliott went fourth overall.
“It’s hard to kind of put in words,” Elliott, who rushed for 91 yards and two touchdowns, said in the middle of an answer about Dalton's role in the rally. “I’m sorry. I’m just struggling a little bit right now.”
Prescott was going down in the arms of defensive back Logan Ryan at the end of a 9-yard run in the third quarter when the Dallas quarterback’s lower right leg got caught under Ryan and appeared to snap.
Prescott reached for the leg as he writhed in pain, and TV images showed his right foot bent at an awkward angle away from his leg. He was fighting back tears as he was carted off with a cast on the leg. Most of Prescott’s teammates rushed to greet him, as did several New York players, including Ryan.
The team said Prescott had a fracture dislocation of the right ankle and was taken to a hospital, where surgery was planned later in the day. Prescott started the first 69 games of his career, from the beginning of his rookie season.
“I feel terrible for him,” first-year coach Mike McCarthy said. “He was having a tremendous year in the short time working with him. He’s made such an impression on me and he’s clearly the leader of this football team. I have no doubt that he’ll bounce back from this and this will be all part of his great story.”
Michael Gallup made two spectacular sideline catches on the final drive. The first was a toe-dragging 19-yarder and the second an over-the-shoulder catch to the New York 16 with Dion Lewis running stride for stride and one foot barely staying inbounds.
Both catches help up on review, the latter after the Cowboys had run the clock down to 3 seconds before a timeout to set up Zuerlein's 34-yarder to drop the Giants to 0-5. Both wins for the NFC East-leading Cowboys (2-3) have come on game-ending kicks by Zuerlein, and after rallies from deficits of at least two touchdowns.
It was the first game at the home of the Cowboys for former coach Jason Garrett, the Giants’ offensive coordinator who was replaced by McCarthy in Dallas after the Cowboys missed the playoffs amid high expectations last season.
Four years ago, Garrett chose to keep Prescott, then a rookie leading a franchise-best 11-game winning streak, as the starter over Tony Romo when Romo was healthy again. Prescott, who replaced an injured Romo in the preseason, has started every game of his career.
Garrett’s offense stopped a two-game streak without a touchdown by getting in the end zone on New York’s first possession on a 3-yard reverse to receiver Evan Engram.
The Giants led 17-3 in the second quarter — the fourth straight game with a double-digit deficit for the Cowboys — before the Cowboys went in front 24-20 with 16 seconds left in the first half on Prescott’s first career touchdown catch. The 11-yarder was from receiver Cedrick Wilson, who took a reverse pitch from Elliott.
Prescott had a huge smile when greeted by right guard Zack Martin after becoming the first Dallas QB with a touchdown catch since Danny White had his second in 1985. A mere 30 minutes later, Prescott’s season was over.
“I’ve got a sick taste in my stomach for it, because he was playing hell of a game, it was a hell of a battle between us,” Ryan said. “Nothing ill will on my part. I know he’s going to come back stronger.”
Dalton was Cincinnati’s starter for nine seasons before the Bengals drafted Joe Burrow No. 1 overall last spring and Dalton signed a one-year deal to be Prescott’s backup.
Dalton and rookie center Tyler Biadasz fumbled an exchange on Dalton’s first full series, setting up Devonta Freeman’s 4-yard scoring run and offensive tackle Andrew Thomas’ 2-point conversion catch for a 34-31 lead for the Giants (0-5).
Three of Graham Gano's four field goals were from at least 50 yards for the Giants, from 55, 50 and 54.
GREEN BAY CONNECTION
Two New York linebackers who played for McCarthy in Green Bay had hands in the biggest defensive plays for the Giants. Linebacker Kyler Fackrell returned an interception by Prescott 46 yards for a touchdown and a 14-3 New York lead in the first quarter. Blake Martinez recovered Dalton's fumble.
The Cowboys had another slight increase in the pandemic-reduced crowd at 25,147. Dallas has had fans at all three home games. There were 21,708 at the home opener and 25,021 last week. AT&T Stadium has 80,000 permanent seats.
Giants: LB Lorenzo Carter injured his left Achilles tendon on the final play of Dallas’ opening drive and didn’t return.
Cowboys: DT Trysten Hill was carted off with a right knee on New York's first drive of the second half.
Giants: Washington at home next Sunday in second of three straight NFC East games.
Cowboys: Arizona at home in their only scheduled Monday night appearance, Oct. 19.