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Dak and the Cowboys are back (for now)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Dak Prescott has had better games, statistically speaking, since becoming the Dallas Cowboys‘ quarterback. He has tossed more touchdowns in a game. He has completed more passes and thrown for more yards.

Monday’s 28-17 win against the Arizona Cardinals might have been Prescott’s hardest game, and it definitely can be considered his most satisfying.

With folks waiting to see how he and Ezekiel Elliott would respond to the worst defeat of their young careers — a 42-17 loss last week against the Broncos in Denver — they answered the call, especially Prescott.

“Last week, we got hit in the mouth pretty good,” Prescott said in a postgame interview with ESPN’s Lisa Salters. “It was important for us to come back this week, prepare the right way and do the things that we needed to do to get a win tonight.”

Prescott did just that, scoring the Cowboys’ first touchdown by somersaulting over two Arizona defenders on a 10-yard run in the second quarter, after Dallas got off to a dreadful start offensively.

“Dak was an animal today,” Elliott said. “He came out there and made some big plays. Sometimes he has to use his feet to get out of the pocket to make those downfield throws, but he played amazing.”

In the third quarter, he found Dez Bryant for a 15-yard touchdown, after Bryant ran by and through a number of defenders before receiving a final push from center Travis Frederick at the goal line.

In the fourth quarter, Prescott made the most of a busted play with a 39-yard, off-balance throw to Brice Butler, who outjumped Justin Bethel in the end zone and, more importantly, completed the process of the catch all the way to the ground.

After the Cardinals cut the Cowboys’ lead to 21-17 with 6:35 to play, and with most everybody expecting the Cowboys to lean on Elliott, Prescott rolled right on a bootleg and found Butler again for a 53-yard gain. Elliott ended that drive with an 8-yard run for his first touchdown of the year.

None of this was easy on Monday. None of it has been easy for the Cowboys’ offense through the first three games.

The New York Giants, Denver Broncos and Cardinals have three of the league’s better defenses. The Cowboys have seen some premier cornerbacks in Janoris Jenkins; Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr.; and Patrick Peterson. They have seen the past two 3-4 defenses stack the line so much that Elliott has had to run against not only eight-man boxes, but also nine-man fronts.

But on Monday, Prescott made the plays with his legs and his arms, finishing with 183 yards on 13 of 18 passing. He ran for 17 yards and bought time on a number of pass plays.

“When you play quarterback and things don’t go well again and again and again, it’s hard to get into rhythm,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Sometimes you start forcing things and I just think his mental toughness is off the charts. … Throughout the ballgame, things didn’t come easily to us. He just kept battling. He kept making good decisions.”

And Elliott was able to grind his way to 80 yards on 22 carries, after being held to eight yards on nine carries against the Broncos. Fifty of Elliott’s yards came on two carries.

The Cowboys don’t want to live with every yard being a fight as the season goes on, but hard wins are often the most satisfying.

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