If the Dallas Cowboys didn’t have anything to play for entering Monday’s game against the Detroit Lions, someone sure forgot to tell rookie quarterback Dak Prescott and rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Looking once again like polished veterans, Prescott passed for 212 yards and three touchdowns, and Elliott ran for 80 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Cowboys erupted for a 42-21 triumph over the Lions at AT&T Stadium.
The Cowboys (13-2) already had home-field advantage throughout the playoff wrapped up before taking on the Lions and could have played it safe and rested its regulars. But that matters not to Prescott and Elliott, who remained in the thick of the NFL’s Most Valuable Player race.
“If you’re a competitor, that’s enough to play for,’’ said Prescott, who completed 15-of-20 passes. “I know that’s how I am and I believe that’s how everybody else is in that locker room.
“Coaches, players and staff, we want to win. We definitely don’t think you’re going in there and it’s a cupcake game.’’
All cupcakes aside, the 13 wins ties Prescott with Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger for the most wins by a rookie quarterback.
“That means I’ve got to go get 14,’’ Prescott said, referring to Sunday’s regular season finale in Philadelphia. “That’s all the focus is -- to win the next one.’’
Elliott, who is chasing a rookie record of his own, also is focused on a team goal. With Monday’s output, Elliott is 178 yards away from setting the rookie rushing record, which Eric Dickerson established in 1983 when he rushed for 1,808 yards.
Elliott could have inched closer to that 33-year old record. But he left for good late in the third quarter in favor of Daren McFadden after carrying the ball just 12 times.
“I’m not part of the game plan,’’ Elliott said. “I let the coaches handle that.
“I always want to be out there, but I know there’s a bigger purpose.’’
Elliott then brought up the season-ending injuries this past weekend that occurred to Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota.
“There’s a bigger purpose for this season,’’ Elliott said. “I think it can be special, so you don’t want to risk anything.
“Especially this weekend you see a lot of big injuries to guys that are very important to their teams. That’s really not my call to make, but I’m going to trust my coaching staff.’’
Elliott is trust worthy enough after joining Dickerson as the only rookies to rush for at least 1,600 yards and score as least 15 touchdowns in a season.
“I think I had a great game,’’ Elliott said. “I think I had 12 carries for 80 yards -- that’s a pretty efficient night.
“I think we did a good job taking a step forward as an offense tonight and that’s all that matters.’’
The 42 points are the most the Cowboys have scored in a game this season.
“Today the offense came out and we were dominant,’’ Elliott said. “We did a great job moving the ball through the air, the defense did a good job of taking the ball away and giving us great field position, so it was all around great effort from this team.’’
Elliott scored on a 1-yard run around the right side in the third quarter, but was mostly appreciative of the 55-yard dash he had in the first quarter when he pulled away from the Detroit secondary and dove into the end zone.
“When you break to the second level, we say it all the time,’’ Elliott said. “We think first down, touchdown.’’
Apparently, Prescott was thinking touchdown, too, as he fired a 19-yard scoring strike to Brice Butler, and also connected with Dez Bryant on 25- and 19-yard touchdowns.
“I don’t try to pinpoint one guy and give him more catches more so than the others,’’ Prescott said. “I just allow for the play to develop.
“I take what the defense gives me. If they get one-on-one, then I’ll take my chances like that.’’
In the past two games Prescott has completed 47 of- 6 passes for 491 yards and no interceptions. He has been completely dialed in while fending off those remaining naysayers who want the Cowboys to play Tony Romo.
“The play-calling has been great, our offensive line has protected me and allowed me to get a chance to get the ball to those guys who get open against one-on-one coverages,’’ Prescott said. “Then its preparation, it’s all week-long in practice, studying hard and being precise throughout the week, and it pays off on Sundays.’’
It’s the same formula Prescott and Elliott hopes will pay off for the Cowboys next Sunday in Philadelphia.
“I want to play every game,’’ Prescott said. “We want to win every game we play.
“I want to keep this moving and going. Any reps I can get is making myself better, and I want to take advantage of those.’’