The Las Vegas Raiders broke a three-game losing streak with a thrilling 36-33 overtime win at the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving.

Daniel Carson converted a 29-yard field goal to lift the Raiders (6-5) past the Cowboys (7-4) in Dallas in the first overtime game to occur on Thanksgiving since 2012.

There was an early advantage for Las Vegas on Thursday as Derek Carr (24-of-39 passing for 373 yards and a TD – most yards by a Raiders quarterback on Thanksgiving in team history) threw to DeSean Jackson, who ran in for a 56-yard touchdown. It was Jackson's 34th career touchdown of 50-plus yards, the second-most in NFL history, just two behind Jerry Rice.

The Cowboys – without stars CeeDee Lamb (concussion) and Amari Cooper (COVID-19) – responded immediately with a touchdown of their own as Dak Prescott (32-of-47 passing for 375 yards for two TDs) found Sean McKeon.

A 30-yard penalty for pass interference gave Josh Jacobs a simple one-yard TD to make it 14-6 in favour of Las Vegas heading into the second quarter.

Dallas looked to be getting desperate as Zuerlein attempted and missed a 59-yard field goal, but they were able to score their second TD just before half-time as an 86-yard drive ended with a one-yard TD for Ezekiel Elliott to close within 17-13 at the break.

The Raiders increased their lead halfway through the third quarter – Marcus Mariota running in a touchdown to complete a 75-yard drive, only for Tony Pollard to immediately run a 100-yard kick-off return to bring it back to 27-19, the third-longest TD in Thanksgiving history.

Dallas forced overtime thanks to Prescott's pass to Dalton Schultz and a pair of Zuerlein field goals in the fourth period, but the Cowboys were unable to complete the comeback in the additional period.

The Dallas Cowboys offense stumbled badly against the Kansas City Chiefs without Amari Cooper, but Dak Prescott defended the wide receiver despite his coronavirus-enforced absence.

Dallas dropped to 7-3 on the season with a 19-9 loss at Arrowhead Stadium, failing to find the endzone for the first time since November 2020.

The Cowboys were missing left tackle Tyron Smith because of an ankle injury and felt the impact of that absence as Prescott was sacked five times.

Cooper, meanwhile, missed out after testing positive for coronavirus, that problem exacerbated by fellow wideout CeeDee Lamb leaving the game with a concussion.

He is unvaccinated, meaning Cooper must miss 10 days and will also not be available for the Cowboys' Thanksgiving clash with the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday.

Despite facing the prospect of heading into the Raiders game without both Cooper and Lamb, Prescott refused to blame the former for his vaccination status.

"I mean, it's unfortunate not having him," Prescott said, in quotes distributed by the team. "To say the decision he made — I mean I'm vaccinated and I could get it and be out two games.

"Let's try not to knock the guy or put the guy down for a personal decision.

"I don't think there's anybody that comes back under 10 days. You give me that stat on guys that are either vaccinated or unvaccinated coming back faster than that time and tested out, then ok, we'll go from there.

"That's my team-mate; that's my brother. We're going to support him. That's his decision, as I said way back in training camp when you guys asked me this question.

"Unfortunately we don't have him, but I know he'll come back and be beneficial for us late in the season."

"It's just an opportunity for other guys to step up and make plays," Prescott added of Cooper's absence.

"We've had different guys including myself go out week after week and other guys have had to step in and make those plays.

"It's challenging when you're missing a guy like Amari who is such a playmaker and dynamic but we've got to be able to win without him."

The Dallas Cowboys managed to hold down the fort while Dak Prescott was sidelined with a calf strain, but everything fell apart as their quarterback returned to the line-up in Sunday's 30-16 loss to the Denver Broncos.

Prescott completed fewer than half of his pass attempts and could not lead Dallas to any points until the game was well out of reach in an emphatic home defeat against the Broncos that ended their six-game winning streak in the NFL.

Dallas turned the ball over on downs on their first two possessions and four times overall in the game, failing on all four of their fourth-down conversion attempts as they compiled a season-low 290 yards after averaging 454.9 entering the game.

"Frankly we were outcoached, we were outplayed all the way through," Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters. "This is the first time I've felt clearly our energy didn't exceed our opponent. That's disappointing."

The Cowboys had not trailed by double digits all season but found themselves down 30-0 by the time Prescott threw the first of two touchdown passes late in the fourth quarter.

Prescott entered the game leading the NFL with a 73.1 completion percentage but connected on just 19 of 39 attempts (48.7 per cent), matching the second-worst showing of his six-year NFL career. 

The Cowboys QB insisted he felt "fine" and there were no residual effects from the leg he injured on the game-winning touchdown pass three weeks earlier against the New England Patriots, but acknowledged he did not perform to his standards.

"I mean obviously I wasn't as clean as I normally am or as I have been. It's tough to say and blame that [injury]," Prescott said. "I'm not going to sit there and blame two weeks [off] when I had a great week of practice under my belt coming into this one.

"I just missed some throws and we weren't our normal selves in the passing game when we needed to be. We didn't execute…

"We got beat. We got thumped in every aspect of the game, especially on offence."

McCarthy could have been forgiven for pulling Prescott with the game out of reach in the fourth quarter, especially coming off an injury, but the quarterback said he never considered remaining on the sidelines no matter the margin. 

"There was game left out there to be played," Prescott said. "It never crossed my mind that I was coming out of the game. I think if somebody would have tried to make that decision, I would have told them I wasn't.

"We needed to get something going. We needed to get some energy, some momentum. We needed to show our fight, our resiliency, something that's won us a lot of games. When you're getting beat like that, you've got to show your character.

"I think that's where the path starts with all of us staying in the game and fighting to the end and trying to get some momentum or something going just to take from this game."

Dallas Cowboys star Dak Prescott said it is "safe to say" he will return from injury and start against the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

A calf injury forced Prescott to miss last week's 20-16 win over the Minnesota Vikings, backup quarterback Cooper Rush sensationally fuelling the high-flying Cowboys.

After two weeks off to recover from a right calf strain, two-time Pro Bowler Prescott is now set to suit up to face the Broncos.

"Safe to say," Prescott told reporters on Thursday when asked if he would play on Sunday.

"I'm feeling good. Obviously I had two weeks to do a lot of rehab and recover, get everything that I needed to, the different modalities, and I feel good.

"Had two great days of practice and looking forward to Sunday."

The Cowboys (6-1) are averaging 40.3 points per game at home this season compared to 26.0 points per game on the road. Dallas have scored at least 36 points in five straight home games dating back to last season, according to Stats Perform.

In his first career NFL start, Rush threw for 325 yards and two touchdowns, including a 73-yard touchdown pass to Cedrick Wilson. The last Dallas quarterback to have a 70-yard TD pass in their first career NFL start was Roger Staubach in 1969.

The Minnesota Vikings spent the week preparing to face Dak Prescott rather than Dallas Cowboys backup quarterback Cooper Rush, with their starter hoping to return in Week 9 after they survived his absence.

Prescott's status for Sunday's game, which the Cowboys went on to win 20-16 on the road, had been uncertain in the days leading up to the contest due to his calf injury.

He was ultimately ruled out after undergoing tests in the pre-game warmup, allowing Rush to make his first career NFL start.

Despite only completing 24 of his 40 pass attempts, Rush still racked up 325 passing yards and two touchdowns to one interception.

He threw a go-ahead touchdown pass to Amari Cooper, who starred with eight catches and 122 receiving yards, in the final minute as the Cowboys improved to 6-1 even without star QB Prescott.

Asked about how the Vikings had prepared for the possibility of facing Prescott or Rush this week, safety Xavier Woods acknowledged they expected the more senior player to take the field.

"We weren't [preparing for both]," said Woods, per ESPN. "We were just preparing for 4 [Prescott].

"We kind of thought they were going to still run the same offense. So, we just prepared for 4 all week. 

"We didn't get the word [that Rush was going to start] until pregame, so we just prepared for 4 but we watched a couple clips of Coop. But during the week, we just prepared for 4."

CeeDee Lamb (eight catches for 112 yards) and Cedrick Wilson (three catches for 84 yards and one TD) also proved productive targets for Rush.

The Cowboys hope Prescott can return for the home game with the Denver Broncos, though they are eager to ensure his injury heals fully in a season where a playoff run looks increasingly likely.

Asked if facing Denver was possible, Prescott said: "For sure. I was getting prepared to play this game

"I'm a guy that takes it day-by-day, moment-at-moment, and right now, I'm going to celebrate this win with the guys and worry about rehabbing and getting everything back in order on Monday.

"We made a call at the end of having a chance to come out with a win, without me playing, and be able to get healthy and not have something re-injure and linger past this week."

After a slow start, which included an interception by Woods and Dallas' first pointless first quarter of the season, Rush delivered with a game-winning drive in the closing stages.

"That's Coop," added Prescott. "He's very mild tempered and always that way – never too high or too low. It showed.

"It allowed him to stay in there, stick to it, stick through some bad plays and come out and make some great plays to win the game that we needed in the fourth quarter."

Rush became the first quarterback to throw 300-plus passing yards and win in his first NFL start in a primetime road game since 1984.

Minnesota, meanwhile, fall to 3-4 and have a testing road game with the Baltimore Ravens (5-2) in Week 9.

Dallas Cowboys backup Cooper Rush led the red-hot NFL franchise to a late 20-16 win over the Minnesota Vikings in his first career start.

Cowboys star Dak Prescott sat out on Sunday due to a calf sprain, paving the way for unheralded quarterback Rush to start under centre for the first time in his career.

Rush did not disappoint under the Minnesota lights, the 27-year-old throwing a five-yard touchdown pass to star team-mate Amari Cooper with less than a minute remaining to seal a sixth consecutive win for the Cowboys (6-1).

Dallas' Rush – who finished 24-of-40 passing for 325 yards, two TDs and an interception – became the first quarterback to throw 300-plus passing yards and win in his first NFL start in a primetime road game since 1984.

The Vikings (3-4) led 10-3 at half-time thanks to Kirk Cousins' 20-yard touchdown pass to Adam Thielen and Greg Joseph's field goal.

Dallas hit back on the road as Rush and Cedrick Wilson connected on a 73-yard pass early in the third quarter to level the contest, with Joseph and Greg Zuerlein trading field goals.

Joseph's third field goal of the game had the Vikings 16-13 ahead and on track for victory heading into the final minute before Cooper and Rush teamed up.

The Cooper Rush-Amari Cooper touchdown became the first in NFL history where the passer's first name and receiver's last name were an exact match.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has been ruled out of Sunday's showdown with the Minnesota Vikings.

The Cowboys listed star Prescott as inactive prior to kick-off due to a calf strain, with Cooper Rush to make his first NFL career start.

Prescott had been determined to face the Vikings but the two-time Pro Bowler was always facing an uphill battle to be fit after suffering the injury in the overtime win against the New England Patriots on October 17.

The 28-year-old has thrown at least three touchdown passes in each of his last four games. According to Stats Perform, it is the longest such streak in Cowboys history – Kansas City Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes is the only other NFL player with a streak of four consecutive games throwing at least three TD passes this season.

Dallas' Prescott boasts a 73.1 completion percentage, which is only second to Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (73.5), while his passer rating (115.0) is fourth in the league.

Overall, Prescott has completed 158 passes for 1,813 yards, 16 touchdowns and four interceptions for the 5-1 Cowboys in 2021.

Dallas Cowboys star Dak Prescott wants to suit up to play the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL this week but conceded whether he does is not "fully my decision".

Prescott is battling to overcome a calf strain in time for the Cowboys' clash with the Vikings in Minnesota on Sunday.

The Cowboys quarterback and two-time Pro Bowler has been limited to two days of practice.

"Knowing this is a long journey and a long season, I don't necessarily know if this is fully my decision, but I'm just going to keep controlling the things I can to get better," Prescott told reporters on Thursday.

"I've gotten better each and every day, and that's what is most important. I'm just focused on doing that again tomorrow."

On the thresholds he will have to pass in practice in order to play according to head coach Mike McCarthy, Prescott added: "They didn't tell me which ones I've got to pass.

"Obviously I trust myself, trust my body, trust what I'm thinking, but also I trust the coaches and Britt, Jim [Maurer] and the whole training staff. We've put a lot into this. I've put a lot into my body and taking care of myself.

"But they know. They know how these things work. First time dealing with something like this, obviously on the same leg as my ankle, I want to be smart about it and cautious. But as I've said, I've gotten better each and every day. I'm doing things today I didn't do as well the day before. I think that's huge."

Prescott has thrown at least three touchdown passes in each of his last four games. According to Stats Perform, it is the longest such streak in Cowboys history – Patrick Mahomes is the only other NFL player with a streak of four consecutive games throwing at least three TD passes this season.

Dallas QB Prescott boasts a 73.1 completion percentage, which is only second to Arizona Cardinals star Kyler Murray (73.5), while his passer rating (115.0) is fourth in the league.

Overall, Prescott has completed 158 passes for 1,813 yards, 16 touchdowns and four interceptions for the 5-1 Cowboys in 2021.

Dak Prescott is "preparing to play" on Sunday despite being limited at Wednesday practice according to Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy.

Cowboys quarterback Prescott suffered a right calf strain on the winning touchdown pass for CeeDee Lamb in their 35-29 overtime win over the New England Patriots on October 17.

The Cowboys had the bye in Week 7, allowing Prescott time to recover from the injury ahead of Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings.

Prescott was listed as "limited" for practice on Wednesday where he went through extended warm-up, simulated drops and threw passes to his running backs, receivers and tight ends.

"He's going to practice and he's going to go through the individual part of it and he's in the game plans. He's preparing to play," McCarthy said before practice on Wednesday. "He's got to cross the threshold to make sure he's full-go."

McCarthy added: "He's going to do everything he can to play on Sunday. That's a given."

The Cowboys head coach said backup quarterback Cooper Rush, who has not played in an NFL game since 2019, would start if Prescott is not cleared.

"I think it's a matter of trying to make sure Cooper's ready and make sure Dak is getting what he needs," McCarthy said.

"We've got to make sure we're getting Cooper ready too."

McCarthy acknowledged Prescott could potentially play at quarterback with a calf strain, having seen Aaron Rodgers do that under his watch at the Green Bay Packers in 2014.

But he added that they would take a no-risk strategy with Prescott, given the Cowboys are 5-1 and three games clear in the NFC East early in the season.

"I think it's a clear decision, we don't want this to be a week-to-week situation, so until he clears that threshold to try to minimize the risk is really what the decision will come down to," McCarthy said.

There has never been much room on the 'America's Team' bandwagon.

Each NFL season seems to begin with scores of pundits and observers scrambling to find a reason why this could be the Dallas Cowboys' year.

The difference in 2021 is they may actually be right.

Not since their Super Bowl win at the end of the 1995 season have the Cowboys reached the NFC Championship Game.

But riding a five-game winning streak after a thrilling 35-29 overtime victory over the New England Patriots in Foxborough, there is no doubt the Cowboys are legitimate contenders.

And, though there are supplementary factors behind their success on both sides of the ball, the primary reason for that status is clear: Dak Prescott is playing arguably the best football of his career.

A stellar three-quarter century

On his 75th career start, Prescott was once again imperious against the Patriots.

He passed for 445 yards with three touchdowns and one interception, posting a passer rating of 108.7.

It marked his 39th game with a passer rating of at least 100, surpassing Philip Rivers (38) for the third-most such games by a player in his first 75 starts.

The two players above him are the man he replaced in Dallas, Tony Romo (41), and Aaron Rodgers (43).

Should he continue performing at the standards he has displayed through five weeks, a Prescott vs Rodgers conference title game is not out of the question.

Accurate in every situation

Returning from a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle suffered in Week 5 last year and entering the season with concerns over a shoulder injury, there were plenty wondering whether Prescott could recapture the form that saw him receive a four-year, $160million contract extension from Dallas in the offseason.

Any such doubts have been emphatically dispelled.

Helming a Dallas offense that leads the NFL with an average of 6.58 yards per play, Prescott is second in the NFL with a completion percentage of 73.1, while he and Matthew Stafford are tied for the league lead in throws that have resulted in a first down, moving the sticks on 44 per cent of attempts.

Completion percentage is not necessarily connected to a quarterback's accuracy, yet in Prescott's case, the link is clear.

Prescott has delivered an accurate, well-thrown ball on 82.9 per cent of his attempts, according to Stats Perform data. That is fourth among quarterbacks with at least 50 attempts this season, trailing Kirk Cousins (84.6), Kyler Murray (84) and Patrick Mahomes (83.3).

A quarterback who has received comparisons to Peyton Manning for his work at the line of scrimmage, Prescott's poise has allowed him to maintain his accuracy almost irrespective of the situation.

His well-thrown percentage under pressure is 77.1 per cent, the average being 70, with only Murray (78.1) and the Patriots' Mac Jones (81.4) above him among quarterbacks to have come under duress on at least 20 attempts. 

Prescott has also been precise when throwing on the move, producing an accurate pass 85.7 per cent of the time in that scenario.

The former fourth-round pick's composure under pressure and ability to deliver on the move shone through in the biggest moments at Gillette Stadium.

On second-and-11 early in the fourth quarter, Prescott connected with CeeDee Lamb for 33 yards having shuffled to his right and reset his feet before delivering with late-arriving pressure in his face.

The final drive of regulation for Dallas saw Prescott put the ball where only Cedrick Wilson Jr. could go up and get it on a critical fourth-and-five with Matthew Judon bearing down on him following a spin move on right tackle Terence Steele.

His first throw of overtime was another hookup with Lamb while rolling to his right and that drive culminated in Prescott finding the same receiver after executing a play-fake left and moving the opposite direction, hitting the second-year receiver on the over route on a throw delivered with his weight falling away to give Dallas a walk-off win.

It could be argued that the Cowboys' own miscues put themselves in such a tight game, and his own coach is perhaps Prescott's most significant obstacle to him delivering long-awaited glory to Dallas this season.

McCarthy's mistakes

The Cowboys will be glad of the upcoming bye week, having seemingly survived a scare when left tackle Tyron Smith limped off with an ankle injury on Sunday, only to return after having it taped.

Smith will have the chance to rest and nurse his ankle and a troublesome neck problem, and by the time the Cowboys are back in action they should have the entirety of their starting offensive line, with right tackle La'el Collins set to return from a five-game ban.

Dallas and head coach Mike McCarthy could also use the extra week to evaluate in-game decision-making, which made life a lot harder on Prescott in Week 6.

Whether it was the decision to call four successive runs from the New England one-yard line in the second quarter, a sequence that ended with Prescott fumbling at the goal-line, or McCarthy's call to settle for a go-ahead 51-yard field goal on fourth-and-two late in the final quarter, the Cowboys' game management was a problem throughout.

McCarthy was bailed out after the latter mistake, Greg Zuerlein's missed kick followed by a pick-six of Jones from Trevon Diggs, but the Cowboys cannot expect to get away with such misjudgements every week.

The Cowboys have an offense teeming with playmakers that is the most efficient in the league by yards per play and a defense second in takeaways with 14, Diggs (seven interceptions) accounting for half of those.

A potent offense and an opportunistic defense is a formula for a Super Bowl challenge, yet it can be ruined if the head coach consistently comes up short with his decisions in situational football.

Prescott has the Cowboys firmly on the path to the title push they have long since craved. It is the man they hired to lead that charge who is the biggest threat to their dreams coming to fruition.

Dak Prescott's game-winning touchdown pass may have been costly for the Dallas Cowboys, though the star quarterback insisted "I'll be fine" after hurting his calf.

Rolling to his right, Prescott leapt to complete a 35-yard touchdown pass to CeeDee Lamb that gave Dallas a 35-29 overtime win at the New England Patriots on Sunday, but Prescott said he came down wrong on the play. 

Prescott walked into his post-game news conference wearing a protective boot and the team said he suffered a right calf strain on the final play. 

"It just came down funny and that's what it was," Prescott told reporters. "It's something we'll get checked out and I'll be fine." 

Prescott will have an MRI on Monday, but the good news for the Cowboys is they are entering their bye week and will not play again until an October 31 trip to face the Minnesota Vikings. 

That will provide valuable recovery time for Prescott, who saw his 2020 season end in Week 5 with a fracture and dislocation of his right ankle. 

There are no indications this will be a serious setback for Prescott, who did not play in the preseason this year, but the Cowboys can ill afford to lose him for any significant period. 

"Life keeps throwing punches and I'll keep throwing them back," Prescott said. "It doesn't hurt as bad when you score and win the game."

Prescott completed 36 of 51 passes for 445 yards with three touchdowns and an interception as the Cowboys beat the Patriots for the first time since December 1996 after six consecutive losses in the interim.

His yardage total is the most allowed by the Patriots in head coach Bill Belichick's 22 seasons with New England, topping a 438-yard game by Peyton Manning in November 2014. 

"I can't say enough about Dak Prescott, the way he was distributing the ball, his poise and confidence in the pocket," said Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy. 

"He never wavered. His process was the same throughout. He's on top of his game right now."

The Cowboys came from behind twice in the fourth quarter to force overtime before Dak Prescott's touchdown pass in the extra session gave Dallas a 35-29 victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday. 

Prescott hit a wide-open CeeDee Lamb from 35 yards out with just under four minutes to play in overtime for the victory, the final strike in a game that saw the Dallas quarterback complete 36 of 51 passes for 445 yards and three TDs. 

The final touchdown capped a wild final few minutes in Foxborough, where Trevon Diggs momentarily stunned the New England crowd by intercepting rookie quarterback Mac Jones and returning it 42 yards for a score to give Dallas a 26-21 lead with 2:27 remaining in the fourth quarter. 

Diggs has intercepted a pass in every game this season, with seven picks overall, and has returned two of them for touchdowns. He is the first NFL player in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) to intercept at least seven passes with multiple touchdowns in his team's first six games of the season. 

But Jones answered on the very next play, hitting Kendrick Bourne for a 75-yard touchdown and passing for the two-point conversion to give New England a 29-26 lead with 2:11 to play. 

That was too much time to leave Prescott, though, and he drove the Cowboys (5-1) downfield to set up kicker Greg Zuerlein – who had missed from 51 yards minutes earlier – for a 49-yard field goal that sent the game to overtime. 

After the Dallas defence forced New England (2-4) to punt in the first possession of overtime, Prescott completed all five of his pass attempts on the game-winning drive. 

The Cowboys racked up 567 yards of total offence on the day, the first time the Patriots allowed at least 500 yards in a game since surrendering 538 to the Philadelphia Eagles in losing Super Bowl LII four years ago. 

Murray, Cardinals stay unbeaten

Kyler Murray threw four touchdown passes as the Arizona Cardinals remained the NFL's only unbeaten team with a 37-14 rout of the Cleveland Browns. 

Murray completed 20 of 30 passes for 229 yards and did not throw an interception as Arizona – without head coach Kliff Kingsbury due to COVID-19 – built a 20-0 lead, then saw Cleveland come back before half-time before pulling away after the interval. 

Baker Mayfield tossed a pair of touchdowns in the final 5:06 of the opening half before suffering a shoulder injury as the Cardinals' defence held Cleveland scoreless after the break on the way to their first 6-0 start since 1974.

In Denver, the Las Vegas Raiders held off the Broncos 34-24 in Rich Bisaccia's first game as interim head coach after Jon Gruden's resignation Monday. 

Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers took another step in establishing themselves as NFL Super Bowl contenders as they pulled out a wild 47-42 victory over the Cleveland Browns.

The lead changed hands seven times as Herbert and Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield led their teams downfield almost at will, but the Chargers (4-1) scored last and the Browns (3-2) could not respond on Sunday.

Herbert continued building his MVP case as he went 26-of-43 passing for 398 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions and ran for another score. 

The Chargers trailed 27-13 after a spectacular 52-yard touchdown run by Nick Chubb on the opening drive of the second half, but Herbert led them back to take a 28-27 lead and the teams exchanged touchdowns from there. 

Los Angeles thought they had tied the game when Herbert hit Austin Ekeler for a 19-yard touchdown with 3:15 to play but Tristan Vizcaino missed his second extra point of the game to leave the Chargers trailing by a point. 

The Browns went three and out on the next possession and Herbert led the Chargers to the three-yard line, where the Cleveland defence helped Ekeler cross the goal line on purpose with 1:31 to play so the Browns could get the ball back. 

But Mayfield could not finish the job, throwing three successive incompletions from the Cleveland 47-yard line to give the Chargers the ball and end the game. 

Murray, Cardinals remain unbeaten

The Arizona Cardinals improved to 5-0 and remain the only unbeaten team in the NFL after pulling out a 17-10 win against the San Francisco 49ers. 

Kyler Murray's explosive Arizona offence entered the game averaging 35 points per game but had to scrape out the win as they were out-gained 338 to 304 by Trey Lance and the 49ers (2-3). 

Murray completed 22 of 31 passes for 239 yards and a key nine-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins with 5:13 to play that effectively put the game out of reach. 

Rookie quarterback Lance made his first start for San Francisco and completed just 15 of 29 passes for 192 yards with an interception, though he led all rushers in the game with 89 yards on the ground. 

Cowboys run away from battered Giants

The Dallas Cowboys took advantage of injuries to the New York Giants' two most important players on offence, rolling to a 44-20 home victory. 

The Giants lost quarterback Daniel Jones to a concussion and running back Saquon Barkley to an ankle injury and were outscored 27-7 after Graham Gano hit a field goal on the first drive of the second half. 

Dak Prescott completed 22 of 32 passes for 302 yards and three touchdowns for Dallas, while Ezekiel Elliott ran for 110 yards and a score. 

So far, so good, Dak Prescott. At least from a personal perspective, though, it was a similar story through four weeks in 2020.

The Dallas Cowboys quarterback set a record-breaking pace last year, his 1,690 passing yards comfortably the most by any player over the first four weeks of a season since 1960. In fact, in at least the past 40 years, no QB can match that total across any four-game span.

Going back to 1960, only Jameis Winston had previously thrown for 450 yards in consecutive games. Prescott became the first to do so in three in a row against the Atlanta Falcons (450), the Seattle Seahawks (472, a career high) and the Cleveland Browns (502, another career high) in Weeks 2, 3 and 4.

Yet the Cowboys were only 1-3, and when Prescott went down for the year against the New York Giants in Week 5, any hopes of recovering their season were dashed. Dallas went from averaging a league-leading 509.5 total net yards and third-ranked 31.5 points per game through Week 4 to 325.9 yards and 22.5 points over the rest of the year — ranking joint-21st and 25th.

In 2021, however, they are 3-1 heading into another Week 5 matchup with the Giants, despite having played three other 3-1 teams. And although Prescott has again been outstanding, this year's Cowboys do not look quite so fragile.

'The best I've ever played'

Of course, Dallas' excellent start begins with the man under center. Prescott is back this season having finally signed a four-year, $160million extension, and he is quickly proving worth that investment.

Although his 1,066 yards pale next to last year's early efforts, the 28-year-old has thrown 10 touchdown passes, up on 2020's nine and the second-most ever at this stage of a season by a Cowboys QB, behind Tony Romo's 11 in 2007. Only Don Meredith (twice — in 1966 and 1968) has bettered Prescott's 116.9 passer rating to this point.

After three TDs and no interceptions in the Week 3 win against the Philadelphia Eagles, Prescott said he had gained "a different perspective" from his spell on the sidelines. "I feel like I'm playing the best I've ever played," he added. He then had four TDs and no interceptions versus the Carolina Panthers in Week 4.

Prescott is undoubtedly excelling — he has delivered a well-thrown, accurate ball with 84.7 per cent of his passes this year, third among QBs with 100 or more attempts — but he is also getting help. In the Panthers game, he did not take a single sack. His seven for the year are fewer than 21 other QBs through four weeks.

Indeed, the Dallas number four said coming into the season offensive linemen Zack Martin, Tyron Smith and La'el Collins, who all missed at least large chunks of 2020 through injury, were "the most important" members of the offense.

Of the 32 pressures Prescott has faced this season, 20 came in the opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when Martin was on the COVID list. He has won 57 of 58 pass protection attempts, allowing only a single hurry. Smith has won 90 of 93 attempts, giving up a sole adjusted sack. The Cowboys still have the suspended Collins to come back in.

Even when Prescott is pressured, he is performing well, getting the ball out quickly and accurately, his 2.84-second release time the fourth-fastest under duress (minimum 10 attempts) and his 81.3 well-thrown percentage the fourth-best.

Having top-level talents to give the ball to makes the job easier, though.

Sharing the ball around

Prescott completed at least 80 per cent of his passes in consecutive weeks against the Los Angeles Chargers (85.2) and the Eagles (80.8), while the Cowboys also put up more than 150 rushing yards in both matchups (198 and 160). The 1984 San Francisco 49ers, led by Joe Montana, had been the last team to achieve that feat in back-to-back games.

That statistic speaks to the threat Dallas pose on offense this year.

Through the air, Prescott has had three outstanding weapons to target at the start of this season. Wide receivers Amari Cooper (22) and CeeDee Lamb (20) and tight end Dalton Schultz (20) have each made at least 20 catches, making the Cowboys the only team to have three players reach this mark through four weeks in 2021.

In just Lamb's second season in the league, he and Cooper have already established themselves as one of football's premier wide receiver duos — they are one of seven pairs of team-mates to each have 250 receiving yards at the position through Week 4 (258 for Cooper, 264 for Lamb).

Against the Panthers, when Lamb was limited to just two catches, four other Cowboys caught TD passes — among them breakout star Schultz, who has three scores in four games after four in his first three years in the league.

Two of those prior four TDs came in the first four games of 2020, though, with Prescott targeting Schultz with 28 passes, leading to a career-high four-game span of 219 receiving yards. Of those, 105 yards came after the catch, showing his power as he ranked fifth at TE in the NFL. So far this year, his 131 yards after the catch trail only Travis Kelce and George Kittle — good company to be keeping.

Crucially, however, Dallas also have multiple options on the ground. Ezekiel Elliott looks back to his best and is boosted by having Tony Pollard emerge as an effective alternative.

"We've got some younger guys who can play and produce, so it's not necessary for Zeke to run the ball 25, 30 times a game," head coach Mike McCarthy said in July. "When you get to December, January football, you want him to be in top form to be able to run the ball 25, 30 times if needed."

Elliott is certainly being used more efficiently; his 342 rushing yards fall well short of the Week 4 marks set in 2016 (412) and 2018 (426), but only in the latter year (5.84) has he averaged more yards per carry than this year's 5.34. The 26-year-old's four rushing scores are his most at this stage of a season. He still played a key role against Carolina, with 143 rushing yards his most in a game since 2018.

The Cowboys are difficult to stop, with Pollard (4.29) and Elliott (4.00) ranking third and fourth among running backs for yards per carry on plays where run disruption occurs and defenders get the better of the O-line. It is easy to see why Dallas are now running the ball on 47.0 per cent of plays, fifth-most in the league, easing the burden on Prescott.

Young defense delivering

This outstanding offensive production would all count for little if the Cowboys were not also showing improvement on the defensive end. The reasons for their 1-3 start in 2020 were the 430.5 total net yards (third-most) and league-high 36.5 points allowed per game.

Happily, with Prescott returning and faith in the offensive options, the Cowboys were able to focus almost solely on defense in the draft. Their first six picks, including 12th overall selection Micah Parsons, were on that side of the ball.

Linebacker Parsons has quickly established himself, leading the team with 2.5 sacks and 32 sack yards while registering 13 pressures on 46 pass rush attempts — a strong 28.3 per cent. At defensive tackle, third-round pick Osa Odighizuwa has been similarly impressive, pressuring at a 21.4 per cent rate and registering an adjusted sack on 7.1 per cent of plays when lined up on the interior. With Jaylon Smith released, fourth-rounder Jabril Cox could also now get an opportunity.

The undoubted star of the season so far, however, is second-year cornerback Trevon Diggs. Dallas have registered 10 total takeaways, only behind the Buffalo Bills, and Diggs' five interceptions — at least one in each game, including a pick-six against the Eagles — account for half of them. Since 1960, only three players have had more interceptions heading into Week 5; since 1980, just two have had a longer streak of games with picks to start a season.

As a team, the Cowboys had 10 interceptions in the whole of 2020, with Diggs, then a rookie, contributing three.

The Cowboys have now given up 24.3 points per game, tied for 16th in the league, but they have allowed just six points — from two field goals — in the fourth quarter of one-score games, giving Prescott every opportunity to win the game.

Unlike the QB, the key men in the defensive unit are largely too young to have worked with former Cowboys coach and current Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, but on the evidence of this season so far they will relish making life hell for his man Daniel Jones on Sunday.

In their last game against weak NFC East rivals until a kind end to the schedule starting in Week 14, the Cowboys will look to lay down a marker, extending this strong start and encouraging hopes they can be a genuine contender this year. Getting Jones off the field and allowing Prescott, Elliott and Co to get to work should ensure they do that.

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