ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Dak Prescott made up for the gaffe that wasn’t on the coin toss. The star quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys had some help from backfield mate Ezekiel Elliott.
Prescott threw two touchdown passes after his confusing exchange with referee Walt Anderson made many think the Cowboys forced themselves to kick off to start both halves, and Elliott ran for two scores in a 44-21 win over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.
The Cowboys (7-7) ended their second three-game losing streak of the season, and the defending NFC East champions stayed even with Philadelphia atop the division with a showdown looming next week.
The defending NFC champion Rams (8-6), who already needed help to get into the playoffs, didn’t help themselves with another poor showing a week after their most impressive game of the season in a win over Seattle.
After rushing for a franchise playoff-record 273 yards in a 30-22 divisional win over the Cowboys last January, the Rams were held to just 22 while Dallas churned out a season-high 263. Todd Gurley had 11 carries for 20 yards.
Coming off two of his better games of the season, Rams quarterback Jared Goff had a rough outing that looked better because of his fourth-quarter numbers with the outcome decided. He finished 22 of 51 for 284 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
The Cowboys’ No. 1-ranked offense kept rolling with a season high in points to go with 475 yards, including scoring drives of 90 and 97 yards.
Linebacker Sean Lee, who didn’t practice all week while dealing with pectoral and thigh injuries, returned his first interception in two years to the LA 9-yard line in the final two minutes of the first half. It set up Elliott’s second TD in the final two minutes of the first half, a 3-yarder for a 28-7 halftime lead.
Those two TDs essentially made the coin toss question moot, but the Twitter storm had long since raged.
After the Cowboys won the toss, and Prescott initially made a reference to kicking off before saying the Cowboys would defer. Anderson said a couple of times the Cowboys wanted to kick, creating the confusion.
The Cowboys were easy fodder for critics with questions swirling about the future of coach Jason Garrett in the final year of his contract, leading an underachieving team that had lost seven of 10 games since a 3-0 start.
Dallas looked more like that early season version.
Elliott ended a career-worst streak of five games without a 100-yard game, the two-time rushing champion finishing with 117 yards with just one carry in the fourth quarter. Rookie Tony Pollard played most of the fourth and had a career-high 131 yards, including a 44-yard score.
Prescott didn’t have to throw much after going 9 of 16 for 160 yards in the first half, ending up 15 of 23 for 212 yards. Jason Witten made a one-handed catch on a 19-yard score that put the 16th-year tight end within one receiving TD of Dez Bryant’s club record of 73.
TURNABOUT’S FAIR PLAY
After getting outgained on the ground by 223 yards in last season’s playoff loss, the Cowboys finished with a 241-yard edge. It was the third game with at least 200 yards rushing for Dallas this season, but the first since Week 3.
Kai Forbath made field goals of 50, 42 and 42 yards and all five of his extra points in his Dallas debut after the Cowboys cut Brett Maher following three critical misses in a span of two games. Maher was just 1 of 5 from 40-49 yards.
After scoring a meaningless touchdown on a 7-yard run late in the fourth quarter, Gurley was all alone in the end zone when he dropped a 2-point conversion pass from Goff. But Dallas was offside, and Gurley ran in the conversion on the next try. The drive was kept alive by another offside penalty that nullified a fumble recovery by the Cowboys.
The Cowboys, already down Leighton Vander Esch because of a neck injury, lost two more linebackers in the first half in veteran Joe Thomas and rookie Luke Gifford. Thomas injured a knee, and Gifford was knocked out by an arm injury.
Rams: at San Francisco on Saturday.
Cowboys: clinches a second straight NFC East title and fourth in the past six seasons with a win over the Eagles on Sunday.