Dueling rookie of the year sensations quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott weren’t so blunt.
So receiver Brice Butler did it for them.
A Dallas Cowboys team that has already clinched a playoff spot with the best record (11-1) in the NFL, one that is one win from clinching the NFC East and a quarterback who can seemingly do no wrong while breaking records with every start, has some extra motivation heading into Sunday’s rematch against the New York Giants.
The Giants’ 20-19 victory in the season opener put the only blemish on the Cowboys’ record. It was also the scene of Prescott’s worst performance as well as Elliott’s worst performance.
They didn’t know what to expect or how good they are. Now that they know, now that we know and that that’s the team we lost to. We want to get them.
Cowboys receiver Brice Butler on rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott
They are motivated as well as the rest of the team to avenge the loss and show they are far different players than they were in the Week 1 setback.
“That was their first game in the NFL,” Butler said. “Regardless of what people say about it that could have been a wrap, instead it’s been like, ‘Let’s get it.’
“We’ve improved, gotten better and are more confident. We are more mature as a team because we were led by younger guys. But I know they individually, especially Dak … It hurt him that we lost.”
Prescott does admit having a personal interest in improving on his maiden voyage in the NFL. He completed 25 of 45 passes for 227 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He recorded a season-low 5.0 yards per attempt. And he had a season-low passer rating of 69.4.
He said he looked like a rookie, and it showed.
I’m looking forward to it a lot personally, and then I know this team [is]. They’re the only blemish on our record right now.
Dak Prescott on facing the Giants
“I watched the tape, and I shake my head sometimes at the things I did or the throws I didn’t make ’cause I wasn’t trusting it,” said Prescott, the NFL’s third-ranked passer with a 108.6 rating to go with 19 touchdowns and only two interceptions.
“But I’ve definitely grown a ton since then, just being able to see the defenses faster, recognize what’s going on, knowing and making confident decisions, and letting the ball go.
“I’m looking forward to it a lot personally, and then I know this team [is]. They’re the only blemish on our record right now. And just to be able to go up there at their place and be able to do what they did to us the first game, we’re excited for the opportunity.”
Elliott has a similar mindset though he is not carrying it as personally as Prescott.
He said he approaches every week motivated to show he is the best back in the league and put his best foot forward. So he is not going to try to put anything extra on the rematch with the Giants.
108.6 Dak Prescott’s passer rating, the third best in the NFL
But the No. 4 overall pick admits he is a much better player than the one who rushed for a season-low 51 yards on 20 carries, averaging a season-low 2.6 yards per carry, in the opening setback. He leads the NFL in rushing with 1,285 yards.
“It was definitely frustrating because it was not how I imagined it,” Elliott said. “But I think it definitely helped shape me into the player I am today and put a chip on my shoulder early this season to go out there and get things right.”
Elliott has averaged 112.2 yards a game since the opener and has been the key to the Cowboys’ 11-game winning streak.
He is more comfortable in the system and more patient as a runner after missing much of training camp and the preseason with a hamstring injury.
“He’s a very natural runner,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “The more experience he gets doing what we do against the different defensive looks help him get better.”
The Cowboys don’t believe the subpar performances by the two rookies were determining factors in the loss to the Giants.
Prescott drove the Cowboys in position for a possible game-winning field goal if not for a bad decision by receiver Terrance Williams that cost them an opportunity in the waning seconds.
It was Prescott’s first game and just two weeks following the shocking loss of veteran starter Tony Romo with a broken bone in his back. Yet, the Cowboys didn’t really limit the offense or hold anything back.
“Well, there’s no question that we felt like he played well in that game,” Garrett said. “A lot of people have their different evaluations of Dak and Zeke early on in the year. There’s no question in our minds each of those guys have gotten significantly better over the course of the last 12 weeks and it’s a tribute to them the approach they take, and how they learn from their experiences.
“We felt like each of those guys, for their first NFL start, handled themselves well and really did some good things in the game and that’s fun and exciting to see them improve week to week over the last three months.”
Both players have improved and so has the team.
Defensively, the Cowboys played that game without their best pass rusher as defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence was suspended for the first four games of the season. Tyrone Crawford had not yet moved from tackle to left end. Rookie third-round pick Maliek Collins has solidified himself inside at tackle and free-agent tackle Cedric Thornton is more accustomed and comfortable with the system.
But Prescott and Elliott are the barometers.
“We are a totally different team,” Butler said. “We are the same physical team but our confidence is on another level. It was their first game. They didn’t know what to expect or how good they are. Now that they know, now that we know and that that’s the team we lost to. We want to get them.”
Cowboys at Giants
7:30 p.m. Sunday, KXAS/5