Finally humbled, Cowboys' Prescott, Elliott look to respond
FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Dak Prescott didn't need long to answer whether Dallas' 42-17 loss to Denver was his most humbling day in the NFL.
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona's 10-time Pro Bowl receiver, didn't have much sympathy for Prescott's "probably so" in reference to the first blowout loss for last year's NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and fellow first-year star Ezekiel Elliott, the league rushing champion.
"I would say they're damn lucky," Fitzgerald said. "It took them 18 regular-season games to be humbled. I got my humble pie Week 2 of my rookie year — a big, big dose of it. Then it happened a few more times my rookie season."
Well, now it's happened to Prescott and Elliott, which gives them a chance to show how they'll respond in a second straight road game when the Cowboys visit Fitzgerald and the Cardinals on tonight.
Prescott threw two interceptions in a game for just the second time, on the same day he became the first NFL quarterback with 500 attempts and fewer than five interceptions. The first led to a 35-10 Denver lead, the second was returned 103 yards for the punctuating touchdown.
The interceptions ended up reflecting poorly on Elliott as well because he didn't pursue Chris Harris Jr. on the first interception and repeated the mistake on Aqib Talib's long return.
Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson accused him of quitting, and coach Jason Garrett didn't do much to dispel the notion. Nearly lost in the hubbub: by far a career-worst game with 8 yards on nine carries.
"I definitely heard it," Elliott said . "I would say I was just very frustrated, but that's no excuse for the lack of effort I showed on tape. I just can't do that. Being one of the leaders on the team and being a guy that people count on, I can't put that type of stuff on film."
Prescott took equal ownership in the locker room Thursday, saying the coaches adjusted and gave the Cowboys chances to recover from a miserable start, only to be undone by his poor execution.
It wasn't Prescott's worst game statistically. That came last season in a 10-7 loss to the New York Giants. But the perception then was the Cowboys were due for such a showing because they had won a franchise-record 11 straight games with two rookies leading the offense.
The dominating showing by the elite Denver defense came a week after the Cowboys methodically handled the Giants in the opener. Now Prescott has to show how quickly he can get the Cowboys back to that form.
"It's important for me to be the same," Prescott said. "Come in with the same energy, the same leadership, get these guys going. Maybe be contagious to not lose confidence or even be worried. It's Week 2 in the NFL. We have a lot of football left to play."
Center Travis Frederick easily remembered his most humbling NFL game: at Chicago his rookie year in 2013. He studied one of Julius Peppers' moves countless times and was sure he was ready for it until Peppers changed directions and "sent me flying 6 yards into the backfield" on a sack.
"Told myself to trust my technique at that point," Frederick said. "Don't ever try to outsmart the game because the game will outsmart you at all times."
Frederick just happened to recall the previous time the Cowboys gave up at least 40 points in a game: a 45-28 loss to the Bears that started a season-ending skid of three losses in four games.
Prescott and Elliott faced bounce-back games only twice as rookies, winning both with fourth-quarter rallies. In the second victory at home against Tampa Bay, Prescott had a career-best completion rate (89 percent) and Elliott had his highest rushing total (159 yards).
But last season, they were never bouncing back from blowouts and the midweek chatter that comes with such games.
"We don't go out there and play for the talking heads," said Elliott, who is playing because of an injunction that stopped his six-game suspension over a domestic incident while the case plays out in court. "We go out there to have each other's back. So that's our motivation."