Dak Prescott kneeled with his teammates and team owner before the game, flipped head over heels for a touchdown in the first half and capped his night with a 37-yard TD pass that proved to be the winner.
The Dallas Cowboys erased last week’s ugly memory on Monday night, with their young quarterback leading the way in a 28-17 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
“He just kept battling,” Dallas coach Jason Garrett said.
“He kept making good decisions. Obviously he made some good plays, big-time throws, but as much as anything else he’s got an amazing spirit and our players follow him.”
The Cowboys (2-1), bouncing back from a 42-17 pummeling in Denver, began the game kneeling at midfield with owner Jerry Jones in a show of unity that followed widespread protests across the NFL of critical comments by President Donald Trump over the weekend.
After they kneeled, they stood and walked to the sideline and stood for the anthem.
“We planned and it was executed that we would go out and kneel,” Jones said, “and basically make the statement regarding the need for unity and the need for equality.”
Prescott, 13 of 18 for 183 yards, broke a 14-14 tie with a 37-yard scoring pass to Brice Butler with 11:52 to play.
“I immediately scrambled and when I scrambled Brice took the right angle and the right initiative going to the back of the end zone,” Prescott said.
Arizona, with a spectacular catch by Larry Fitzgerald for 24 yards on a third-and-18 play, moved downfield but the drive stalled. Phil Dawson’s 37-yard field goal cut the lead to 21-17 with 6:35 left.
Ezekiel Elliott, who gained 8 yards on nine carries against Denver and drew criticism for not hustling after a couple of late interceptions, was bottled up much of the game, but still gained 80 yards on 22 attempts, 30 on one play. He ran 8 yards for the final Cowboys touchdown.
The Cardinals (1-2), in their home opener, got a big game from Fitzgerald, who caught 13 passes for 149 yards, in the process moving ahead of Marvin Harrison into eighth in career receiving yards. The 13 receptions tied a career high.
“That’s Fitz. It’s Monday night,” Arizona coach Bruce Arians said. “He’s a money player. It was a great performance by him. It’s a shame we couldn’t play better around him.”
Carson Palmer had a big first half, completed 15 of 18 for 145 yards and finished 29 of 48 for 325 yards and two scores. He was sacked six times, a career-high three by DeMarcus Lawrence.
The Cardinals dominated the first half statistically, but were deadlocked with the Cowboys at 7-7. Arizona had a 152-57 advantage in yards and dominated time of possession 19:34 to 9:41.
Arizona took the opening kickoff and went 82 yards in eight plays. Palmer was 5-for-5 on the drive, capped by a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jaron Brown.
Before Dallas even had a first down, Arizona mounted a nearly nine-minute drive but a touchdown pass to Brown was negated by a holding penalty and Phil Dawson’s 36-yard field goal try was wide right. It was the third mid-range miss for the 41-year-old kicker this season.
And the miss left the door open for the Cowboys to get back in it.
Prescott scored on a 10-yard run, flipping head-first over the goal line to tie it at 7-7 with 3:33 left in the half.
TAKING A KNEE: Jones has been a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, so the speculation was that he would not allow his players to kneel during the national anthem.
Following a weekend of kneeling and protesting across the NFL, the Cowboys and their owner displayed their own version of unity Monday night, kneeling on the field before rising as a group and going to the sideline for the anthem.
Numerous boos rang out across University of Phoenix Stadium as the Cowboys kneeled and continued as the players rose, still arm-in-arm, and stepped back to the sideline as the flag was unfurled across the field. They remained connected as Jordin Sparks sang the anthem.
The Cardinals had their own symbol of unity after a weekend of protests in the NFL, gathering along the goal line arm-in-arm during the national anthem. They were joined by team president Michael Bidwell, his family and general manager Steve Keim.
“It’s just to show unity,” Cardinals team captain Frostee Rucker said. “There’s so much negativity going on. People are trying to pull us apart. We always want to stay together.”
More than 200 NFL players kneeled, sat or prayed during the anthem Sunday after President Trump said any player who does not stand for the anthem should be fired.
Trump weighed in again Tuesday morning with a tweet, saying “ratings for NFL football are way down except before game starts when people tune in to see whether or not our country will be disrespected.”
He also added booing before the game when the Dallas team dropped to its knees was the “loudest I have ever heard.”
Sparks, whose father, Phillippi, played in the NFL, had “PROV 31:8-9” written on her hand while she sang the anthem. The bible verse says: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Bob Baum, The Associated Press