Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett had fun, but no surprise NFC struggled to score in Pro Bowl

Cowboys QB Dak Prescott on Kellen Moore as possible OC: “He has the mind for it”

Cowboys QB Dak Prescott on Kellen Moore as possible OC: "He has the mind for it"
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Cowboys QB Dak Prescott on Kellen Moore as possible OC: "He has the mind for it"

Well, at least Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and his revamped staff didn’t become the first in the history of the Pro Bowl to be shut out.

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott broke through in the fourth quarter to throw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Atlanta tight end Austin Hooper in what ended up being a 26-7 loss by the NFC to the AFC at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.

It was the third consecutive victory for the AFC in the NFL all-star game, the second loss by a Garrett-coached team, as he led the 2016 staff as well.

It was a Pro Bowl game played in sloppy and rainy conditions with all-star players on both sides playing half speed and often out of position.

It was more two-hand touch than tackle as the officials blew quick whistles on contact.

So it’s hard to indict Garrett and his staff for the loss.

And give Garrett credit for letting the players have fun.

Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott lined up at quarterback and handed the ball off to New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley on a zone read. He also went 22 yards on a fake punt and rushed the quarterback from defensive end. Barkley and Saints running back Alvin Kamara also played end for the NFC.

Kamara got credited with a sack. And Tampa Bay receiver Mike Evans had an interception at cornerback.

But it’s also hard to overlook the struggles on offense after a season in which the Cowboys coaching staff had trouble generating points, resulting in the firing of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.

Quarterbacks coach Kellen Moore, who is expected to be promoted to offensive coordinator next week, called plays during the Pro Bowl.

And it looked to be more of the same early in the game when the NFC faced 4th and goal on the 2 and Moored called a fullback dive up the middle. The play was stuffed no gain, reminiscent of the Cowboys season-ending loss to the Los Angeles Rams, which was keyed by an Elliott run up the middle for no gain on 4th and 1.

The NFC trailed 20-0 before Prescott’s touchdown pass to Hooper. Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper also dropped a would-be touchdown pass from Prescott when the ball bounced off his helmet.

The offense generated just 148 yards compared to 416 for the AFC.

Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the former Texas Tech, star, completed 7 of 14 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown. He was named the offensive Most Valuable Player.

Prescott, who completed 4 of 11 passes for 48 yards, threw an interception in the game as did Chicago quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and Minnesota receiver Adam Thielen on a flea-flicker.

Elliott had three carries for 33 yards, including a 22-yard run on a fake punt. He also had two receptions for 14 yards.

Cooper had one catch for eight yards in addition to the embarrassing drop.

Cowboys rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch led both teams in tackles with seven.

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Clarence E. Hill Jr. has covered the Dallas Cowboys as a beat writer/columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram since 1997. That includes just two playoff wins, six coaches and countless controversies from the demise of the dynasty teams of the 1990s through the rollercoaster years of the Tony Romo era until Jason Garrett’s process Cowboys.