CLEVELAND -- Despite their rookie status, quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott proved too much for the Cleveland Browns to handle, and the Dallas Cowboys rode the successes of their first-year players to a 35-10 win at FirstEnergy Stadium Sunday.
Prescott completed 21 of his 27 attempts for 247 yards and three touchdowns without an interception or fumble against the Browns. Elliott complemented Prescott’s performance with a 92-yard, two-touchdown showing on 18 carries.
Prescott’s three touchdowns went to three different players, tight ends Jason Witten and Gavin Escobar, as well as wide receiver Cole Beasley.
Although Browns rookie quarterback Cody Kessler completed 19 of his 27 throws for 203 yards with one touchdown, he got little help in the running game, as Isaiah Crowell gained just four yards on six carries and Duke Johnson accounted for 30 on five attempts.
With the win, the Cowboys improved to an NFC-best 7-1 through the first half of their schedule, while the Browns matched a dubious mark with their ninth straight loss to start the season. Only the 1975 Browns started the season with as many losses before their first victory as this year’s team.
Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys was the Browns’ 12th straight overall, which was also a franchise record.
The Cowboys had an answer for the Browns’ game-opening field goal, and it came in the form of a 26-yard touchdown pass from Prescott to Witten
The Prescott-to-Witten connection put the Cowboys up by a 7-3 count with 6:47 to play in the first quarter.
Other than a 10-yard run from Elliott, the only play of 10 or more yards on the 10-play, 75-yard drive that took 5:53 off the first-quarter clock was the touchdown pass from Prescott, his 10th of the season and second to Witten.
Elliott extended the Cowboys’ lead over the Browns to 14-3 with a 10-yard touchdown run with 10:02 to play in the first half.
On first and goal from the Browns’ 10-yard line, Elliott took a handoff from Prescott around right tackle and hustled his way to the pylon. With a defender closing in fast, Elliott extended toward the end zone, and after a long conversation amongst the officials, the touchdown call was made.
Elliott’s touchdown run capped off a nine-play, 69-yard drive that took nearly five minutes off the clock.
Then, on the next possession, Prescott finished off an eight-play, 67-yard scoring drive with a six-yard touchdown pass to Beasley that gave them a 21-3 lead over the Browns with 1:50 to play in the first half.
Facing a third and goal from the Browns’ six-yard line, Prescott took the shotgun snap and patiently waited for the play to develop. With a clean pocket behind his offensive line, Prescott held the ball until Beasley broke free from a Cleveland defensive back and headed toward the left corner of the end zone.
Prescott lobbed the pass over the defensive line and into Beasley’s hands for his team-leading fourth touchdown catch of the season.
Elliott scored his second touchdown on an eight-yard run around left tackle and staked the Cowboys out to a 28-10 lead over the Browns with 11:30 to play in the third quarter.
On first and goal from the eight after a six-yard pass from Prescott to Witten, Elliott took the handoff, chop-stepped at the line of scrimmage and sprinted out wide to the left. Then, with no defender close, Elliott cut up the field and jogged across the goal line for the touchdown.
Although the Cowboys’ next possession, a seven-play, 75-yard drive, ended with a touchdown run, it was Prescott’s passing abilities that moved the ball initially.
Utilizing a fake pitch to the left of the formation, Prescott rolled out to his right and found Witten for a 35-yard gain up to Cleveland’s 40-yard line. Then, two plays later, Prescott connected with wide receiver Dez Bryant for a 19-yard pass to the Browns’ 20-yard line.
After utilizing their running game to move the ball into the end zone on previous drives, the Cowboys used it effectively as a decoy on their fifth scoring possession of the game.
Following a pair of runs from Elliott to get the ball down to the Browns’ two-yard line, Prescott used a play fake to attract the attention of the defense and found Escobar with a touchdown pass. Prescott’s third passing touchdown of the game gave the Cowboys a 35-10 lead over the Browns with 1:41 to play in the third quarter.