After sitting out last week's opener, quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Dez Bryant gave Cowboys fans a small taste of what they can look forward to during the regular season. The pair connected twice on the opening drive for 55 yards, including this 32-yard score:
.@Dak + @DezBryant... Yup. You know what happens next. Got 'em! #ThrowUpTheX https://t.co/VUxqSA29OO2017-8-19 23:15:51
Prescott looked sharp. The reigning NFL Rookie of the Year went 7-of-8 for 106 yards and the touchdown pass to Bryant.
Rotoworld's Evan Silva offered this statistical nugget that suggests big things are in store for the Prescott-Bryant tandem in 2017:
Evan Silva @evansilva
Dak Prescott hits Dez Bryant for long TD. Dak & Dez hooked up for 10 TDs over their final 11 full games together last season.2017-8-19 23:14:08
Injuries have hindered Bryant over the past two seasons, causing him to miss 10 games. His strong showing in a brief appearance against the Colts is a huge step in the right direction, though he was expecting to do big things coming into the game.
"Camp was great. It was outstanding," he said Thursday, via Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News. "I think we came out here and we showed what we were made of. We're ready for the season to start. It's been fun out here and it's time to get back to Dallas and put on a show for the home crowd."
This was also a huge game, albeit for different reasons, for Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith. The former Notre Dame star who tore his ACL and LCL in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State made his NFL debut.
Smith, who sat out all of his rookie season after being drafted 34th overall, didn't make a lot of plays before being taken out but was fired up after this tackle against Colts tight end Jack Doyle:
.@thejaylonsmith makes the STOP! 👏 #INDvsDAL https://t.co/3FPtALCFIh2017-8-19 23:35:14
The results on the field for Smith weren't nearly as important as just getting to suit up for his team. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport summed up Smith's journey nicely:
Ian Rapoport @RapSheet
I have no idea what #Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith will be. But I never thought he'd set foot on a football field again. This is all pretty cool.2017-8-19 23:38:22
After getting his first taste of NFL action, Smith was happy and appreciative of the support he received, per ESPN's Todd Archer:
"It's a blessing. It's a blessing to be out here. It's a blessing to be playing for America's Team. I'm so honored just to play the game I love. From day one, I've believed in myself, and I thank all the supporters everywhere, even everyone who doubted me. I love you guys, and I just appreciate you guys just recognizing me in any way. I'm thankful to be here, and it was a great night."
Once again, the Cowboys kept running back Ezekiel Elliott out of action as he goes through the appeals process for his six-game suspension. The rest of Dallas' running backs shined against an overwhelmed Colts defense, racking up 160 yards on 32 carries.
Darren McFadden looked comfortable running behind the Cowboys' powerful offensive line with 59 yards on nine carries. As this image from the NFL on CBS shows, the Colts had no answers in the trenches:
Cowboys O-line making things look preeeeeeetty easy on the ground... https://t.co/2pambhYukZ2017-8-19 23:27:13
The Colts continue to learn that life without Andrew Luck isn't pretty. Their offense looks inept. After putting up 230 yards last week against the Detroit Lions, it had just 277 total yards and was on the verge of being kept out of the end zone until Stephen Morris found Freddie Brown with 57 seconds left in the game.
Indianapolis' defense got the team's lone touchdown when Barkevious Mingo stripped the ball from Cowboys backup quarterback Kellen Moore, and LaVar Edwards returned it 15 yards to tie the score at seven in the first quarter.
Scott Tolzien, starting in place of Luck for the second straight game, went 10-of-14 for 70 yards. Things got so bad that former Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne shared this thought on Twitter:
Reggie Wayne @ReggieWayne_17
Not to be harsh... BUT... It's time to trade for a ok #2 QB... I'm just saying ⏳⏰🎲☎️2017-8-19 23:34:45
There were some offensive bright spots for the Colts. Running back Marlon Mack looks like a potential replacement for Frank Gore. The rookie out of South Florida had 45 yards on just five carries, generating praise on social media for his all-around game:
Mike Wells @MikeWellsNFL
Two impressive runs by rookie Marlon Mack and then picked up the blitzing linebacker on a 1st down completion.2017-8-20 00:07:17
Zak Keefer @zkeefer
Reminder of why #Colts drafted Marlon Mack: > 4 runs of 20+ yards last season, last in NFL > 6 of Mack's 15 TDs last season went for 43+2017-8-20 00:13:18
Even though this preseason hasn't been pretty for the Colts, they still have time to adjust. Luck will be back at some point, even if it isn't in Week 1 as owner Jim Irsay hinted at, and that will make life easier on everyone else offensively.
On the other side, this was about as perfect a night as the Cowboys could have hoped for. The first-team offense looked fantastic. Prescott and Bryant showed no rust in their first action, and the rushing attack still looks strong.
The third preseason game is usually when teams keep their starters in the longest, so it will provide a better gauge of where both clubs are at.