ARLINGTON, Texas — Cooper Rush’s demeanor, as common, hadn’t modified.
So an incredulous reporter requested: “Are you excited? You content?”
The Cowboys quarterback cracked a smile.
“Successful an NFL sport,” he conceded, “is enjoyable.”
Thus concluded the postgame emotion for the quarterback who accomplished 19-of-31 passes for 235 yards and one landing, whereas bettering to 2-0 in his profession begins.
The Cowboys had entered their residence contest vs. the Cincinnati Bengals as 7.5-point underdogs after dropping franchise quarterback Dak Prescott to a thumb fracture that required surgical procedure on his throwing hand. May they rebound from an already league-worst offensive manufacturing of their season-opening loss? May a pressure-enforcing protection wreak sufficient havoc with proficient quarterback Joe Burrow to enrich an evolving offense?
The Cowboys held off Cincinnati, 20-17, Rush engineering a game-winning drive within the remaining minute that kicker Brett Maher’s 50-yard area purpose sealed. Six sacks of Joe Burrow drove the efficiency.
“We simply purchased into one another and mentioned, ‘F what everyone else thinks, that is about us,’” mentioned linebacker Micah Parsons, who notched two sacks, 5 quarterback hits and 4 complete tackles. “And I believe we got here out right here and proved that.”
To the Cowboys’ credit score, they didn’t solely attempt to drive performs from their veteran superstars. Positive, Ezekiel Elliott wore down the Bengals with 15 carries for 53 yards and third-year receiver CeeDee Lamb improved from 2-of-11 final week to 7-of-11 this week for 76 yards.
However arguably probably the most significant offensive performances got here from Rush, broad receiver Noah Brown and working again Tony Pollard. The trio who lengthy represented Dallas’ second-team offense — if not third — had been now able to flash their chemistry as starters.
Take the Cowboys’ first offensive collection, when Rush and Lamb appeared to be on completely different pages en path to a third-down incompletion. The Cowboys now confronted fourth-and-2 at their very own 44. They stayed on the sphere, to what the Bengals later admitted was a shock.
Rush stayed calm as Bengals nostril deal with D.J. Reader closed, discovering Brown 17 yards upfield to increase the drive.
“Any time you’ll be able to present confidence in your workforce, that’s what you wish to do as a coach,” McCarthy mentioned. “I simply had confidence within the scenario, confidence within the name and clearly it was glorious execution.”
Six performs later, Rush discovered Brown on a diving 9-yard landing.
Add in a 46-yard Pollard burst up the left sideline the following collection, and a 1-yard finish zone punch, and the Cowboys had scored touchdowns on their first two offensive drives for the primary time since October 2019. Rush mentioned beginning quick was an emphasis in apply this week.
Finish-of-game and two-minute eventualities had been, too.
The Cowboys would wish that.
Regardless of carrying a 17-3 lead into halftime, Dallas went scoreless for 29-plus minutes of the second half. Dallas’ protection largely held up on a six-sack day that left Bengals star kicker Evan McPherson making an attempt and connecting on area objectives from 43, 46 and 50. Nonetheless, a shaky offensive second half for the Cowboys gave the protection little room to breathe. The Bengals greater than doubled the Cowboys’ time of possession after the half, Dallas’ longest drive a seven-play, three-minute collection that ended unceremoniously in tight finish Dalton Schultz fumbling.
Then, with the sport tied within the remaining two minutes, Dallas’ protection held off on first down. They held on second. Burrow discovered receiver Tyler Boyd within the flat on third-and-3.
Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs discovered Boyd 2 yards wanting the chains.
“The toughest we’ve seen Diggs deal with,” Parsons mentioned. “He shot out like a cannon. … Large momentum.”
Rush discovered Lamb down the left sideline for 8 yards. Then Brown, his best goal on the day, caught a 12-yard tipped ball up the center. Lamb adopted up with one other 10-yard achieve beneath two tacklers.
Maher stepped up comfortably to complete the job.
“We have now the utmost confidence in his capacity to guide us within the two-minute drive within the again finish of the sport,” Lamb mentioned. “For him to return by way of once more and are available out victorious? That’s Cooper Rush for you.”
Jerry Jones insisted Rush’s heroics gained’t alter the timeline for Prescott’s return, Jones including that benchmark hinges much less on concern of reinjury than it does on confidence in throwing power and talent to grip the ball. Surgical procedure and a clear break indicated a sensible four-to-six-week timeline, per a number of stories. However the Cowboys declined to place Prescott on injured reserve, Jones insisting Prescott may return sooner.
“This sport has no bearing on that in any respect,” Jones mentioned. “All it does is verify now we have good quarterbacks backing him up … and take loads of the angst out of it.”
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The Cowboys subsequent play on the Giants, in opposition to the Commanders, and on the defending Tremendous Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams. Past the four-game mark for Prescott awaits a Sunday night time sport in Philadelphia adopted by residence contests vs. the Lions and Bears.
Shocking offensive contributors and opportunistic defensive linemen give the 1-1 Cowboys extra respiratory room.
Parsons likened the workforce’s first 2022 win to a parable he heard in chapel Saturday.
“The chapel man mentioned, ‘You need to undergo checks to get to your testimony,’” Parsons mentioned from his postgame locker. “I heard that and was like, ‘Wow, we’re going by way of all these accidents. Generally you’ve acquired to undergo stuff to get the place you wish to go.’
“We’re nonetheless going by way of the storm however as you undergo the storm, there’s going to be gentle on the finish of the tunnel.
“I believe that’s the place we’re headed.”
Comply with USA TODAY Sports activities’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.