ARLINGTON, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys held serve once again.
So far this season, Dallas’s definitive pattern has been for the Cowboys to suffer frustrating losses on odd-numbered weeks on the road, only to return home and redeem themselves.
And they kept it up in eye-popping fashion as Dallas stomped Jacksonville, 40-7, on Sunday afternoon at AT&T Stadium.
Cowboys quarterback Dad Prescott threw two touchdown passes and ran for another in the first half. He finished the game completing 17 of 27 passes for 183 yards, the two first-half TDs and no interceptions.
Dallas is now 3-0 when it scores a touchdown in the first half, and also 3-0 at home. The Cowboys started the game on fire and led 24-0 at halftime.
Dallas owner Jerry Jones brought a special guest, Mixed Martial Arts superstar Conor McGregor, to the game. So did that fire up the Cowboys players?
“We felt it early,” Prescott said. “I don’t know if it was Connor McGregor or whatever it was, but we came out and attacked.”
The Dallas offense started the second half in cruise control, but the Cowboys defense put the offense on the doorstep to score 10 points that iced the game in the second half.
Dallas safety Jeff Heath intercepted Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles and returned the pick to the Jaguars’ 8. Heath’s interception set of a Brett Maher 32-yard field goal.
Then, on Jacksonville’s next offensive play, linebacker Jaylon Smith stripped the ball from Jaguars’ receiver Keelan Cole and cornerback Jourdan Lewis recovered for Dallas at the Jacksonville 31.
This time, the Cowboys fully cashed in on the takeaway as Ezekiel Elliott ran 15 yards for a touchdown.
And Cowboys kicker Brett Maher gave a standout performance, nailing field goals of 32, 46, 50 and 55 yards.
“Every phase contributed,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “Every phase played well throughout the game. Sixty-minute effort on offense, defense and in the kicking game.”
Elliott edged Prescott for the team-high in rushing yards as the running back posted 106 on 24 carries. But Prescott was impressive toting the ball as well as he ran 11 times for 82 yards.
Prescott drew critiques last for his wavering accuracy when the pocket breaks down. But he was sharp in those situations against Jacksonville.
“He moved, used his feet to extend plays, made some really positive runs,” Garrett said. “But also extended some plays and made some plays down the field throwing the ball after he got out of the pocket.”
On the flip side, Jacksonville started flat and got worse from there.
The Cowboys out-gained the Jaguars 251-64 in total yards in the first half.
The face-palm moment of the first half came when Jacksonville gave Dallas a fourth-down conversion when the Jaguars had too many players on the field for a punt. The Cowboys’ extended drive resulted in a nine-yard touchdown pass from Prescott to Cole Beasley and put Dallas ahead, 24-0.
“Definitely a lot of miscommunications,” Jaguars safety Barry Church said. “It is something that once we watch the film, we will be able to shore it up, but we have to get that down first. We can have all the talent in the world, but if you are not playing as one unit, the proof is in the pudding out there.”
At the end of the day, the Cowboys limited Jacksonville to 204 total yards and Dallas won the turnover battle, 2-0.
The Cowboys offense piled up 378 yards and by far its highest point total of the season.
But now Dallas has another odd-numbered-week road trip staring at them.
“It’s something we’ve got to figure out and we’ve got to figure out before we go on the road next week,” Prescott said. “Right now, we’re going to take this win, learn from it, get better.”