DALLAS: Dak Prescott spreading the wealth in hot start for Cowboys
FRISCO, Texas — Dallas Cowboys receivers and tight ends have seven touchdown catches through two games, the same number of TDs the entire offense had in the first five games last year.
Dak Prescott's hot start has plenty to do with depth at positions that looked promising in the preseason, and have delivered in a pair of victories over NFC East rivals for the defending division champions.
"Everybody's alive," coach Jason Garrett said after Sunday's 31-21 win at Washington. "You want to be able to feature certain guys in your offense, but we also want to be able to say, 'Hey, I'll throw it to this guy. He's open. Let's give him a chance.'"
The best case in point against the Redskins was receiver Devin Smith. A 2015 second-round pick by the New York Jets after helping Ohio State win a national championship, Smith sustained a pair of knee injuries that wrecked his career.
Smith's 51-yard touchdown catch sparked a second consecutive game with five straight scoring drives for Dallas (2-0). It also made Smith the fifth receiver with a catch of at least 25 yards from Prescott, who had five of those type of plays in the 35-17 season-opening win over the Giants.
Prescott completed his last 18 passes to tie the longest streak of his career, finishing 26 of 30 for 269 yards and three touchdowns. He has completed 82 percent of his passes for 674 yards with seven TDs and one interception in two games.
Amari Cooper and Jason Witten have two touchdowns receiving apiece, while Smith, Randall Cobb and Blake Jarwin have one.
"Bottom line is we're having a lot of guys show up," owner Jerry Jones said. "We're having a lot of receivers show up, getting some great work in our front. I wouldn't take back these first two in any parts of it."
The plan to get RB Ezekiel Elliott up to speed is coming along nicely after the two-time rushing champion missed the entire preseason holding out for a new contract.
Elliott reached 100 yards (111) thanks to a 27-yard run the play before Prescott took a knee to run out the clock. The fourth-year back was right on his career average of 25 touches (23 carries, two catches for 9 yards) in 53 snaps after getting 14 touches on 37 plays in the opener.
The biggest breather for Elliott came on an 11-play drive that ended with Brett Maher's 25-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. Rookie Tony Pollard took the whole series, getting three carries for all 22 of his yards rushing and his only catch, a 3-yarder.
"I think slowly and surely, I'm getting back in my rhythm and knocking the rust off," Elliott said. "I feel good about everything going forward."
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Dallas defense is a little light on turnovers and sacks so far. Getting takeaways has been a persistent problem, and the Cowboys have two through two games, a pair of fumbles against the Giants.
While Tyrone Crawford had an important sack of Washington's Case Keenum when the Dallas offense was struggling in the first half, it was the only one. The Cowboys sacked Eli Manning just once as well.
It figured that new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore would incorporate Prescott's ability as a runner, and so far the 31-year-old play-caller has. Prescott had the longest carry for a quarterback in Dallas history with a 42-yarder to set up one of his three touchdown passes. Prescott's 69 yards rushing were the second most of his career.
LG Connor Williams was beaten badly on the only sack of Prescott and again when quick pressure forced Prescott out of the pocket before his first interception in seven career games against the Redskins. Williams also had two penalties: a holding and a false start.
70 — Career receiving TDs for Jason Witten. One of the questions when Witten decided to come out of retirement for a 16th season after a year as a broadcaster was whether he could reach Dez Bryant's franchise record of 73 TDs receiving. The 37-year-old has two in two games.
WR Michael Gallup is expected to miss up to four weeks after arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. He sustained the injury in the second half against the Redskins. DT Antwaun Woods also injured a knee but may not miss much time.
The Cowboys will say all the right things about this, but what appeared to be a safe path to 3-0 might now extend to 4-0. Dallas is a huge favorite at home against Miami on Sunday, with the Dolphins (0-2) essentially dismantling their roster for a rebuild. Now the Cowboys know they won't face QB Drew Brees (torn thumb ligament) in a visit to New Orleans in two weeks.
-- By Schuyler Dixon, AP
PHILADELPHIA: Undermanned Eagles nearly rallied to win, face injury woes
PHILADELPHIA — Missing three of their top five receivers, the Philadelphia Eagles were simply undermanned against the Atlanta Falcons.
Carson Wentz almost led them to victory, anyway.
Wentz overcame early struggles and a couple poor throws, absorbed several hits and watched a perfectly thrown pass slip through Nelson Agholor's fingers instead of going for a go-ahead 60-yard touchdown with under two minutes left in a 24-20 loss.
He connected with Agholor for 43 yards on fourth-and-14 later in the drive, but his last pass on fourth down to Zach Ertz was a half-yard short at the Falcons 9.
Now the Eagles (1-1) have to get ready for the Detroit Lions (1-0-1) with uncertainty surrounding their receiving corps.
DeSean Jackson played only 11 snaps before a groin injury sent him to the sideline, and Alshon Jeffery played only six before a calf injury took him out. Tight end Dallas Goedert didn't play because of a calf injury.
That forced the Eagles to use rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and reserve Mack Hollins at the receiver spots along with Agholor, and tight end Ertz played every snap.
Coach Doug Pederson had to scrap his plan to use two tight ends in several formations and altered his play calling.
"If you were to look at my call sheet this morning, you would see a lot of scratch outs on plays and different things," Pederson said Monday. "If you watch the game as we did this morning, Zach is telling guys where to go. Nelly is telling... we're moving guys. Our pieces are moving and we're putting guys in positions that didn't practice in those positions during the week and still had a chance at the end of the game. Took the lead and had a chance."
The Eagles are having success converting third downs on offense. They were 9 of 18 against the Falcons and are 20 of 35 (57.1 percent) through two games. They were 2 of 3 on fourth downs in Atlanta and are 3 of 5 overall.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The defense couldn't generate much pressure on Matt Ryan, forcing defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz to blitz far more than he usually does. The only sack came on a safety blitz, and another blitz forced an interception, but Ryan saw it coming late in the game and tossed a 54-yard TD pass to Julio Jones for the winning score.
The front four has to find a way to get to the quarterback
Jordan Howard averaged a team-high 7.3 yards per carry, finishing with 44 yards. He also reached down to make a nice grab on one of his two catches for 11 yards. Howard ran hard, was tough to bring down, and could see an increased workload.
Cornerback Ronald Darby got beaten for two TDs and two more could've been scores except Ryan overthrew open receivers. Darby had an interception in the third quarter, too. He's playing 10 months after tearing the ACL in his right knee.
Defensive tackle Tim Jernigan suffered a foot injury that's considered more serious than the injuries to Jeffery, Jackson and Goedert. The Eagles already lost defensive tackle Malik Jackson, a key signing in free agency, to a season-ending foot injury last week. Running back Corey Clement has a shoulder injury that forced him out of Sunday's game.
2.5 — Rookie running back Miles Sanders has a team-high 21 carries for only 53 yards, an average of 2.5 yards per attempt. He appears to be looking to run outside the tackles and isn't finding the open holes in the middle quickly enough.
The Eagles return home to face the Lions, who are coming off a 13-10 upset win over the Los Angeles Chargers. Philadelphia is an early favorite by a touchdown and can't get caught looking ahead to a Thursday night game at Green Bay.
-- By Rob Maaddi, AP
WASHINGTON: Redskins face defensive, injury questions with Bears up next
It's getting late awfully early in the season for the Washington Redskins.
They're 0-2 after losses to the teams forecast to finish first and second in the NFC East, Case Keenum is holding his own at quarterback, and yet there are already questions about making changes to the coaching staff.
"I don't think we need to hit the panic button yet," coach Jay Gruden said. "We just have to continue to focus on what we can do better to win."
Sunday's loss to the Dallas Cowboys shined a not-so-happy spotlight on the defense that was supposed to be Washington's strongest unit. Instead, there are more than a few questions about that side of the ball and a handful of injuries as the Redskins prepare to host the Chicago Bears next Monday night.
The passing game has been much better than expected thanks in large part to Keenum and rookie receiver Terry McLaurin. Keenum has thrown for 601 yards and five touchdown passes with no interceptions through two games.
Falling behind in the second half and needing to abandon the running game hasn't helped, and there's more that can be done to open up the field.
"We'll keep getting better at the long ball, but everybody is different," Keenum said. "I overthrew Terry on the deep ball but found somse other guys. That's what the NFL season is about. It's about progressing and finding what you do well to be better at it."
WHAT NEEDS HELP
How much time do you have?
The defense is struggling to contain receivers, stop the run, rush the passer or do anything that's an important ingredient to winning in the NFL.
Knee injuries to top defensive lineman Jonathan Allen and No. 2 cornerback Quinton Dunbar have tested Washington's depth. But newcomer Jon Bostic doesn't want this defense using injuries as an excuse — and he's right because a big problem again seems to be the scheme.
"We're not going to say, 'We have a guy out here, we have a guy out here,'" Bostic said "Everybody in this game, they're here for a reason. No matter who it is, whenever your number is called upon, you have to be ready to play."
So far, they haven't been.
Undrafted free agent Steven Sims made the team, and it was primarily for what he could do as a kick returner. Gruden creatively got Sims involved in the offense Sunday with three jet sweeps that added up for 16 yards and were the perfect showcase for his speed.
"It's unbelievable what those guys can do upstairs and some of the looks that they're able to produce and getting guys open, different formations, and just getting guys out in different spaces," Keenum said. "We just got to keep attacking and hitting our shots when they come."
Most of the conversation on the Redskins' offensive line has been about missing left tackle Trent Williams, who has been a no-show in a dispute with the team. But right tackle Morgan Moses, who may not be 100 percent, struggled against the Cowboys, and along with right guard Brandon Scherff has been a source of some costly penalties
"We talk about their movement all the time," Gruden said. "Until you have to go block their movement, their stunts, and you have to react and stick your foot in the ground and react and then bounce off the stunt and try to get the other guy, it's easier said than done sometimes. .... A couple holding calls here and there may be understandable, but we've had way too many the first two weeks."
Tight end Jordan Reed has missed three weeks with a concussion and, incredibly, isn't the most worrisome injury. Allen is a key cog for the defense, and the secondary being without Dunbar and fellow cornerback Fabian Moreau has hurt a ton.
The Redskins have given up a total of 569 yards in the second half through the first two weeks of the season. It's not a good reflection of defensive adjustments but more specifically shows how this unit is getting worn down.
Hope an extra day is enough to get Allen, Dunbar and Reed back and make more than a few tweaks defensively to be ready for the Bears. Most specifically, getting pressure on Mitchell Trubisky is a must to take pressure off the defensive backs.
-- By Stephen Whyno, AP